The Champion

May 2003 , Page 36 

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New York court finds failure to raise rates of assigned counsel violates state constitution

By Susan J. Walsh

Read more 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 representation.”1 

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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