Repairing a Broken System: Our Proposal
- Laying The Groundwork: Redirecting $3 Million
- Goals of the CIPDC
- Commission's Powers, Duties and Responsibilities
- Commission Members
1. Laying The Groundwork: Redirecting $3 Million [back to top]
In June 2006, the Kaye Commission found the current system unconstitutionally fails to satisfy the State’s duty to protect the rights of those who need public defense services. The Kaye Commission called on the State to create an adequately state-funded, statewide defender system headed by an independent public defense commission.
A bi-partisan, two-house bill introduced in 2007 to establish the Independent Public Defense Commission garnered broad support.
A complete overhaul of the system will take time and planning. With a very modest investment from a special revenue account, the State can institute change by creating the Independent Public Defense Commission and empowering it to carry out that planning.
Specifically, we are proposing for 2009, and for the next two years (the phase-in period envisioned by the Kaye Commission and other informed observers), $3 million per year be dedicated from the Indigent Legal Services Fund administered by the Comptroller to the start-up expenses and establishment of the Independent Public Defense Commission. This would be followed by a complete transfer of administration from counties to the State accompanied by a county cap formula as to their ongoing fiscal contribution pending full State takeover.
We urge the State Assembly and Senate to create by statute a public benefit corporation overseen by a commission of 13 members. Pending State administration at a time certain, the Commission would be appointed, and as an operating agency:
- Hire staff
- Develop a work plan
- Contract with competent evaluators/experts
- Consult with NYSDA
- Adapt the Public Defense Case Management System
- Complete a fair and unbiased evaluation of current programs (using the standards of the New York State Defenders Association (.pdf) and the New York State Bar Association (.pdf))
- Oversee a defender self-evaluation process
- Develop binding professional, performance, and systemic standards to govern all operations of the system
- Cost out the current and new systems
- Develop proposed revenue streams
- Assess the means to reduce the scope of the right to counsel through procedures that will not harm clients
- Design regions for the new delivery system
- Begin the establishment of appropriate private/public partnerships.
2. Goals of the CIPDC: [back to top]
- Establish a unified statewide public defense system to provide effective public defense services to all eligible persons in criminal and family court
- Ensure independence of the public defense function
- Establish a properly state-funded public defense system utilizing state employees, contracted services, or other methods of providing public defense services responsive to regional and community needs
- Establish an independent public defense commission as a public benefit corporation to oversee and direct public defense services statewide
3. Commission's Powers, Duties and Responsibilities: [back to top]
- Overseeing administration of public defense services statewide, planning for state financing of such services, and fairly evaluating existing providers
- Establishing and evaluating a strategic plan for public defense services and contracting with local providers and establishing needed regional and specialized offices
- Creating standards for ongoing evaluation of all providers
- Making decisions concerning commission staff
- Establishing an advisory committee of defenders, voluntary organizations and other criminal justice professionals and client community representatives
- Reporting to the governor, legislature, and judiciary, on the needs of the public defense system in each region and related statutory improvements
- Other standard duties, powers, and responsibilities including to sue and be sued and do all things needed or convenient to carry out its purposes
4. Commission Members: [back to top]
The commission would have 13 members selected with regard for, among other things, diversity and demonstrated commitment to quality representation for people of low income and independence of the public defense function. No member could be a serving judge, prosecutor, public defense provider, or employee or member of other governmental agencies/boards. Statutory constraints on the appointment of Commission members would ensure independence.
The Governor would appoint the Commission, with appointments statutorily constrained to ensure independence: