Tuesday, September 6, 2011


If you are unable to provide an attorney and you cannot afford one, then one will be provided for you…BUT AT WHAT COST?


KINGSTON, NY (September 5, 2011)… Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach has released a report on Ulster County’s Assigned Counsel Program and recommends immediate action to control the costs to the County for providing legal representation to individuals who need and cannot afford an attorney. The report illustrates how with tighter administrative controls the County could realize substantial annual savings and it lauds the County Public Defender for obtaining a grant to improve services.

Ulster County’s Assigned Counsel Program and its Office of the Public Defender provide attorneys to represent eligible defendants in court. The Office of the Public Defender represents the majority of these cases, but when a conflict of interest arises defendants are provided counsel through the Assigned Counsel Program.

“It is remarkable the number of cases handled by Ulster County’s Public Defender,” said Auerbach, “and at a cost per defendant far less than its sister program, the Assigned Counsel Program.” The Assigned Counsel Program pays hourly fees, reimbursements, and other costs to attorneys who are assigned to cases by judges and justices.

“There has been an expensive misunderstanding in County government,” said Auerbach, “that the County has no control over assigned counsel and its related costs.” In fact, the report demonstrates, counties have not only the right but the obligation to adopt an Assigned Counsel Plan. “The response to questions regarding this cost center reminded me of the answers we received regarding Net Service Fees,” said Auerbach, “with the shoulder shrug and ‘there’s nothing we can do’ comments.”

“I recognize that there was an effort in 2008 to create an Office of the Conflict Defender to better manage costs and improve legal services,” said Auerbach, “but the delay encountered in advancing that effort does not relieve the county of its on-going responsibility to manage the costs.” Auerbach’s report recommends the County develop an Administrative Plan for Assigned Counsel (APAC) and implement it immediately while continuing to pursue an effective comprehensive Assigned Counsel Plan addressing professional development and management as well as costs.

Auerbach said it is important for taxpayers to understand that these legal services are not restricted to people considered “indigent” or devoid of resources. The legal standard is provision of services to defendants “who cannot afford to retain counsel”. Further, Auerbach said, the requirements may no longer be limited to criminal defendants and could possibly extend to civil cases as well. “The value of assigned counsel to our justice system cannot be underestimated,” said Auerbach, “likewise we must not underestimate how quickly these costs are growing.”

The report is posted on the Comptroller’s website at www.ulstercountyny.gov/comptroller and click “Reports/Audits” then “Reports & Reviews”.


Anonymous said...

It has been part of the DA's campaign funding - there are many families getting taxpayer paid health insurance.

Anonymous said...

How many assignments did a certain city court judge hand out to judicial delegates while he was running for Supreme Court?

Anonymous said...

You're up Elliot. Carnright deflected right on you yesterday. You better get out there and set the record straight. Is the "superstar" goldbricking investigator getting paid with your approval and are those investigations politically motivated?

Anonymous said...

You know if you have information from jailhouse wiretaps that a witness was going to be murdered and you fail to take action, it could be considered a criminal act. Was that big case more valuable for election purposes than that man's life?