Responses to Systemic Challenge and Strategies for Reform Papers


My remarks deal with a different aspect of systemic development, that relating to New York and other large metropolitan areas where more than one agency delivers services to the indigent. In large metropolitan areas, there are more criminals and many more multiple defendant cases than Legal Aid or a public defender agency alone could represent.Therefore, such areas have had to search for additional ways to provide counsel to criminal defendants. After realizing that there needs to be more than one agency providing legal services, one must decide what form or forms those other agencies should take. In New York we have chosen a two-tier system consisting of a private Legal Aid Society which receives most of its money from government, and an assigned 18-B1 panel made up of private attorneys.

The New York system does not work well. That collection of the best and brightest – the Legal Aid Society – is now moribund and bureaucratic. Quite plainly, I attribute the Society’s narrowness to the lack of significant institutional competition. Our other tier, consisting of assigned counsel, barely meets the needs of indigents’ defense. The 18-B attorneys are inadequately compensated, their criminal cases often take a backseat to other matters in their practice and inevitably get delayed, and they often have limited resources, supervision and auxiliary services. From an administrative point of view, assigned counsel systems are about three times as expensive as Legal Aid or public defender systems.

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