June 24, 2019: NYSBA Honors Public Defender and Others for Ensuring Quality Legal Services for the Poor

By Communications Department

For their dedication in helping low-income New Yorkers gain access to quality legal services, a public defender and the executive director of a legal services organization were among those honored with awards by the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Committee on Mandated Representation.

John J. Evans, a senior assistant public defender in Dutchess County; Clare J. Degnan, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County; Daniel P. McCoy, Albany County executive; and the 20-member state Commission on Parental Legal Representation were the award recipients, which were presented earlier this month at the State Bar Center in Albany.

“The distinguished recipients of these awards were selected because they provide or facilitate the highest level of quality representation to indigent clients,” said Robert S. Dean of New York City (attorney-in-charge, Center for Appellate Litigation), chair of the Committee on Mandated Representation “Each honoree is truly deserving of this special recognition.”

2019 Denison Ray Award Criminal Defender Award
John J. Evans
In his six years with the Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office, Evans has earned a reputation as a zealous advocate, trying all types of cases – from misdemeanors to murder. He also is known for his courtesy and professionalism, compassion and dedication to his clients, and as a mentor to young attorneys.

2019 Award for Excellence in Mandated Representation
Clare J. Degnan
Degnan has dedicated her entire legal career to representing indigent clients and fighting for their rights. As executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County, she works on improving the system of mandated representation. As part of this effort, she has used grants from the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to create an 18-B mentorship program and is working to provide an office for the Center for Community Alternatives in the legal aid building.

Daniel P. McCoy
As Albany County Executive, McCoy has been a leader in the fight to fund indigent legal defense. He and his team’s work with other stakeholders such as criminal justice advocates and faith leaders has resulted in the state’s committing an additional $250 million to the counties by 2023. He also overhauled the Albany County’s Public Defender’s Office to ensure pay parity with the District Attorney’s Office.

Commission on Parental Legal Representation
Seeing the need for support for parents in family court representation, in 2018, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed the Commission on Parental Legal Representation. Under the leadership of Hon. Karen Peters, the commission produced an interim report that aims to uphold and support family court representation, recommending practices that conform to the Committee on Mandated Representation’s standards of representation in indigent defense.

About the Awards
The Denison Ray Criminal Defender Award recognizes defense attorneys or organizations that exemplify the highest levels of professionalism in providing zealous representation to indigent clients. It is named for Denison Ray, a career legal activist who led legal services programs in New York and other states.

The Excellence in Mandated Representation Award recognizes an attorney or organization that demonstrates the highest professional standards, innovative efforts to improve mandated representation and works to ensure the high quality of that representation.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Joan Fucillo
[email protected]

518-487-5670

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