2011 Northeast indigent defense legislation


Connecticut SB 38 Exempts from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) personnel, medical, or similar files of current or former employees of the Division of Public Defender Services to people in the custody or supervision of the Department of Correction (DOC) or confined in a facility of the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital. Requires public agencies to waive any fees for providing records requested under FOIA if the requestor is a member of the Division of Public Defender Services or court-appointed special assistant public defender and certifies that the records pertain to his or her duties. Specifies that, for purposes of FOIA, the Division of Public Defender Services is considered to be a judicial office. (By law, a judicial office is subject to FOIA only with respect to its administrative functions.)

Maine SB 182 Specifically states which decisions of the executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services must be subject to an appeal process for attorneys aggrieved by such decisions. Specifies method of appeal of such decisions by executive director.

Maine SB 189 Makes certain records in the possession of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services confidential.

New York AB 7932 / SB 5474 Exempts legal aid societies and bureaus and other entities that provide indigent representation from the fees charged by the Department of Motor Vehicles for record searches and copies of documents.

Adopted Resolution

Maine HB 451 Grants emergency approval to changes to Eligibility Requirements for Specialized Case Types, as provisionally adopted by Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Service.

Approved by one chamber

New Jersey AB 3324 / SB 2233 Permits early termination of one-year terms of municipal court public defenders when two or more municipalities enter into agreements to establish joint municipal courts or shared municipal courts. Approved by full Senate. In Assembly Judiciary Committee.

New York AB 7857 / SB 3269 Authorizes public defenders, legal aid societies, and administrators of assigned counsel plans to have access to the Division of Criminal Justice Services’ criminal history records for use in connection with the representation of public defense clients. Approved by full Assembly. In Senate Finance Committee.

Active/Carried over into 2012

Massachusetts SB 748 Removes power of courts to approval fees/costs associated with defense in criminal cases, juvenile delinquency proceedings and youthful offender cases. Requires submission of costs to committee for public counsel services rather than clerk of court. Requires approval of costs associated with defense be made by committee for public counsel services.

Massachusetts HB 3359 / SB 898  Requires judiciary produce report of all criminal and delinquency cases initiated in the courts of the commonwealth during fiscal year 2011, including number of cases in which public defender appointed. Requires parity between funding of prosecutors and public defenders. Requires all criminal and delinquency cases be “weighted” based on case type to establish budgetary amounts that may be appropriated to the committee for public counsel services to pay for public defenders.

Massachusetts HB 1285 Repeals requirement that counsel appointed or assigned to represent indigents within the private counsel division, except any counsel appointed or assigned to represent indigents within the private counsel division in a homicide case, shall be prohibited from accepting any new appointment or assignment to represent indigents after he has billed 1400 billable hours during any fiscal year.

Massachusetts SB 1446 Converts law school tuition into tax credit if attorney serves as public defender or otherwise practices “public interest law” as defined.

Massachusetts SB 1861 Increases hourly compensation levels/amounts payable to indigent defense counsel by $3-$5 per hour, depending on activity.

Massachusetts SB 848 Repeals law with respect to providing legal services for indigents subject to the sex offender registry classification system.

New Hampshire HB 315 Declares an “impeachable offense” the appointment of an attorney or commitment of public funds for an attorney in connection with the representation of any person, whether indigent or not, except as specifically authorized by the New Hampshire constitution, federal or state law, or mandate of the New Hampshire supreme court. Provides such appointment shall be made only upon application of the person making the request and consistent with rules adopted by the New Hampshire supreme court. Prohibits appointment in any court other than the court in which the appointment is made, except to the extent necessary to preserve or perfect an appeal as mandated by the New Hampshire supreme court.

New Jersey SCR 148 (Constitutional Amendment) Creates Public Defender Services Commission established by the amendment.  Provides Commission to appoint Public Defender (currently, Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate). Locates the Public Defender within the courts but gives it independent status.

New Jersey SR 92 Requests New Jersey Supreme Court require attorneys to perform 50 hours of pro bono service per year or make a monetary contribution to Legal Services of New Jersey.

New Jersey AB 3844 / SB 2768 Prohibits the expenditure of State funds by the Office of the Public Defender or other attorney providing the same services, on cosmetic services for defendants in a criminal trial.

New Jersey SB 1812 Authorizes Office of Public Defender to provide legal representation for child in proceedings after parental rights have been terminated.

New York AB 1310 / SB 3261 Provides for free legal representation in certain mortgage foreclosure actions where the homeowner is financially unable to obtain counsel.

New York AB 2749 Establishes the New York state public defense commission to oversee the provision of public defense services in the state. Requires commission establish public defense services standards, provide financial assistance to local governments and public defense providers for expenses incurred in providing legal services to the indigent, provide training to persons in the public defense profession and oversee the provision of public defense services in the state.

New York AB 731 Authorizes any legal aid society or other legal services or non-profit organization that provides legal services to indigent clients to have access to EjusticeNY for the purposes of obtaining, where authorized by their clients, access to records necessary for understanding, correction and applying for Certificates of Rehabilitation.

New York AB 7867 Provides funding under the indigent legal services fund for the New York State Defenders Association.

New York SB 5143 Provides funding under the indigent legal services fund for the New York State Defenders Association (not identical to AB 7867)

Died in committee

Maine SB 225 Requires all new courthouses designs include adequate space for attorneys providing indigent legal services.

Vermont HB 232 Allows a municipal public body to go into an executive session in order to consider applications to or awards from a municipal fund for the poor or indigent.