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Cuomo Vetoes Bill To Fund Public Defenders

Courtesy of Pixabay

Suffolk County is one of five counties in New York where the state funds legal services for the poor. On Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have extended state funding to all 62 counties.

The right to counsel in criminal cases is constitutionally protected. In many states, including New York, it’s up to individual counties to assign and pay for public defenders and investigators.

Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which supported the bill, said it was an opportunity for New York to take the lead on what he calls a crisis in public defense.

“Look, every county has varying resources available to it and you don’t want to have a situation where the quality of one’s access to a constitutional right differs from county to county,” Reimer said.

Suffolk County was part of a 2014 settlement where New York State agreed to fund major public defense reforms for 7-and-a-half years. Those reforms might be in danger if no bill is passed to extend funding beyond that period.

Cuomo called the bill a “backdoor attempt to shift costs from the county to the state.”