Counties in the News May 18, 2016
Wednesday's news from counties across the state.NYSAC
Indigent Defense Services Poised for Expansion
On April 4, 2016 the NYS Office of Indigent Legal Services (OILS) issued new guidelines that will significantly expand eligibility for public provided defense attorneys in both criminal and family court. The new guidelines would double the take home income eligibility from 125% to 250% of the federal poverty level, or nearly $30,000 for individuals and $62,000 for defendants with a family of four. These guidelines stem from the state's settlement of the Hurrell v. Herring lawsuit settlement between the NYS ACLU and five counties and the State of New York.
County leaders are concerned that these changes will significantly increase the cost of this state mandated expense, and have asked (OILS) to:
1) Delay implementation until April 1, 2017 in order for this action to be in line with the State budget cycle;
2) Establish regional eligibility standards regarding poverty thresholds similar to minimum wage requirements—this is because the cost of living is vastly different throughout the state, as is the hourly wage of attorneys; and
3) Use the delayed implementation time to get a more accurate account of how this change will impact community payers and providers, and discuss this change in the context of greater reform efforts.
In the meantime, two separate pieces of legislation (S. 6341A, Defrancisco and A.6202C, Fahy) would provide for a phased in takeover of the costs of county indigent legal defense services. These bill will have to be negotiated in both houses and agreed upon before it can be sent to the Governor for his enactment.
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