Caseload Division Between the 18-B Panel and the Legal Aid Society


Our preliminary court observations revealed that 18-B Panel attorneys handled a large number of cases at each stage of the criminal process. Panel regulars were highly visible at Criminal Court arraignments, as well as in Supreme Court. They appeared to carry caseloads equal to or greater than those of Legal Aid Society staff attorneys. In both courts, it was common practice for judges to assign single defendant cases to Panel attorneys who were present in the courtroom.

To determine what share of cases the 18-B Panel attorneys handled, we first attempted to determine the proportionate number of First and Second Department assignments that went to each defense entity. Three findings were clear from the outset: (a) the clerks charged with the responsibility of assigning cases to Panel attorneys were unaware of the proportionate share of indigent defendants these attorneys handled vis-a-vis their Legal Aid Society counterparts; (b) the clerks had no knowledge of whether the cases they assigned were conflict or non-conflict cases; and (c) the clerks did not know why requests for assignment of Panel counsel were made.

We next sought to obtain a reliable caseload count for the 18-B Panel and the Legal Aid Society. None was available. In order to learn more about the proportionate share and source of the cases handled by both entities, we reviewed the annual reports that each entity filed with the Office of Court Administration. We then analyzed (1) OCA’s independent inventory of citywide final dispositions (completed cases) in Supreme Court; (2) OCA’s inventory of final dispositions in Criminal Court; (3) New York County District Attorney’s Office data on multiple-defendant cases arising in that county and (4) the internal records of both defense entities related to final dispositions in Criminal Court and Supreme Court. It was necessary to analyze OCA’s own data and the internal records of both entities because the reports filed with OCA were, as we will demonstrate below, misleading in different ways and therefore precluded a comparative caseload analysis. The District Attorney’s data permitted us to analyze the difference between the expected and actual workload of both entities in New York County Supreme Court.

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