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The Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission

Click here to watch the press conference and see the photos from Gideon Day 2009

"...any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer,
cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided . . .
lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries."

Justice Hugo Black, US Supreme Court,
Gideon v. Wainright (1963)

New York's system for providing public defense services is broken.

Across the length and breadth of New York State today, thousands of people are routinely denied their constitutionally, statutorily, and morally mandated right to effective counsel. Unable to hire private lawyers, these people are caught up in an underfunded and overburdened system. Many never meet their lawyer until their day in court; others are pushed to plead guilty without discussing their innocence or defense; still others see their children taken away without proper advocacy.

Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to overhaul this broken system, and we need your help.

New York must establish an Independent Public Defense Commission heading a statewide, fully-funded public defense system. Since its recommendation by Judge Kaye's blue ribbon panel in 2006, the Commission has been supported by Governor Paterson, the State Senate and Assembly Leadership, and over 200 organizations and communities of faith.

But their support is not enough. State leadership understands that the Commission is the way to fix our broken system of public defense, but they won't make it a priority unless they hear from their constituents. Take action now and make your voice heard. Write to your representative. Make a visit to a district office. Join our list of supporters. Take Action Now.

If public defenders are not overburdened and underpaid, under-trained and under-supervised, then they can begin to fulfill the role they are meant to play: trusted advocates for their clients who know their clients' histories and have researched critical relevant documents; who work with clients' families and former employers, actively pursue alternatives to incarceration, and advocate for the reuniting of families. From a system that serves neither State nor client, we can create one which serves both.

Together, we will fix our broken system of public defense, and ensure that no New Yorker faces our criminal justice system without an effective advocate at their side.

The Time for an Independent Public Defense Commission is Now!