ALBANY, NY (11/29/2016)(readMedia)-- The New York State Defenders Association applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing into law two bills that will help ensure that public defense clients are represented at arraignment and on appeal.
The first bill will help make sure that counsel is assigned to represent individuals at the first stage of a criminal prosecution, where they learn of the charges against them and the court makes bail or release decisions. The New York Court of Appeals has held that arraignment is a critical stage of the criminal proceeding and that defendants have a constitutional and statutory right to representation at arraignment. See Hurrell-Harring v State of New York, 15 NY3d 8 (2010). However, on a daily basis in many of New York's counties, defendants have been denied this fundamental right. The bill signed yesterday by the Governor (S.7209-A), which allows the chief administrator of the courts to establish off-hours arraignment court sessions, will make it more likely that individuals charged with a crime will be represented by counsel at arraignment.
Another bill signed yesterday (A.9522) gives trial courts the power to grant "poor person relief," finding criminal defendants who were already found eligible for and represented by assigned counsel at the trial level eligible for the appointment of an appellate lawyer. This streamlined process for getting counsel assigned to represent a defendant on appeal will save time and resources and demonstrates that the State respects the statutory right to appeal and the right to assigned counsel on appeal.
NYSDA Executive Director Jonathan Gradess said, "These common sense measures protect the rights of New Yorkers, enhance access to justice, and provide needed flexibility to courts at the local level." NYSDA thanks the Office of Court Administration for proposing these bills and congratulates all those who worked to get this legislation passed and signed.