State will chip in on St. Lawrence County’s indigent defense costs
Saturday, September 22, 2018 - 8:23 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- St. Lawrence County will receive $5.3 million over the next five years to aid with indigent defense, marking a success for the county officials who urged the state to pay up.

The county’s operation committee has agreed to accept the funding, but the full board of legislatures will need to approve it at the Oct. 1 meeting before the deal is finalized.

“This is really huge. I can’t overstate what it means for the county and the state a whole,” St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button, who was at the forefront of the county’s push for the funding said.

Under the agreement the state will help pay for indigent defense services. Funding will be phased in over the next five years with the county receiving $353,999.82 the first year. In the next four years the county will receive $706,99.64, $1,061,99.46, $1,415,999.10 and $1,769,999.10 respectively.

Button said the funding will likely help the county hire more attorneys, investigators and support staff.

The funding will ensure defendants have counsel at arraignment, establish new caseload standards so that attorneys can devote sufficient time and attention to each case, and ensure that attorneys receive effective training and have the necessary qualifications and experience.

In 2014, the state successfully negotiated an agreement in Hurrell-Harring lawsuit filed against the state and five counties based upon an alleged failure to provide the necessary level of indigent defense services in those counties. The new legislation included in the budget mirrors that agreement and will provide funding to all counties throughout the state.

An earlier plan that was vetoed by the Governor would have also provided funding for family court, but the approved provision will cover only criminal defense.

Button says the county will continue to seek state contributions to offset costs there as well.