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New York court finds failure to raise rates of assigned counsel violates state constitution
By Susan J. Walsh
Indigent Defense columns.
Just three days short of the third anniversary since The New York County
Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) filed suit against the state of New York
on behalf of indigent litigants in criminal and family courts in New
York City, trial judge Lucindo Suarez declared that the “failure to
increase the compensation rates for assigned counsel violates the
constitutional and statutory right to meaningful and effective
In a 37-page opinion which annexed a chronology documenting the
“pusillanimous posturing and procrastination of the executive and
legislative branches” for failing to raise the rates from $40 and $25
per hour for in court and out of court time in 17 years, the court
declared the portions of the statutes setting forth those rates
unconstitutional as applied.2 It also directed payment in the amount of $90 per hour without distinction between in- and out-of-court work.3
The decision, based on the testimony of 41 witnesses and 435 exhibits,
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