Senate, Assembly budget proposals could save St. Lawrence County millions in public defender expenses
St. Lawrence County would be among the beneficiaries of state budget proposals that would have the state take on the costs of defending people in court people who can’t afford legal counsel.
In its 2016 budget St. Lawrence County allocated $2.34 million to fund indigent defense.The state Bar Association reports that the Senate and Assembly have included language in their one-house budget proposals that recognize the State of New York, not county governments, should bear the cost of providing constitutionally mandated legal representation of low-income individuals who are accused of crimes.
St. Lawrence County is among a group of counties that contends the state Legislature must take the responsibility that the Supreme Court puts on the states to provide counsel for the indigent but which the state has pushed down on the counties.
"The Senate and Assembly bills acknowledge the state government's responsibility for funding mandated representation of criminal defendants and for overseeing the quality of that representation," New York State Bar Association President David P. Miranda said.
"We urge legislators to work with Governor Andrew Cuomo to craft a budget that provides that indigent criminal defendants across the state with quality representation," he said.
St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button, who was among several speakers in Albany Jan. 21 to speak in favor of the state funding costs associated with public defense for those who can’t afford it, said at the time that support for a bill that would force the state to pay for indigent defense was gaining strong support.
State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Assemblywoman Adie Russell, D-Theresa, have both sponsored bills to get the state to pay he costs.
The deadline for passage of the state budget is March 31.