St. Lawrence County board considering passing indigent defense services to state
Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 6:13 pm

CANTON – St. Lawrence County lawmakers will likely ask the state to take over the legal counsel of indigent defendants.

A resolution discussed by the legislators at a Tuesday committee meeting supports the transformation of the current county-provided indigent defense system into part of a New York statewide defender system.

The resolution cites case law from a 1963 Supreme Court decision, which held in Gideon v. Wainwright that the right to counsel for one charged with crime is fundamental and that states need to supply lawyers for those unable to afford them.

The resolution states that in 1965 the State of New York delegated this responsibility to counties, and has resulted in the inefficient patchwork of services provided at the county level, which it claims is deficient.

The resolution says public defense services are inadequately financed by the State of New York and urges the establishment of an Independent Public Defense Commission overseeing a state-funded, statewide defender system.

If passed the resolution would ask Gov. Cuomo to fix the public defense system by incrementally developing a state funded model and design a cost-effective way to finance that system over time.

The resolution is expected to go before the full board of legislators March 3.