NYSBA: State Budget Preserves Important Criminal Justice Reforms but Action Still Needed on Clean Slate, Assigned Counsel Pay
T. Andrew Brown, president of the New York State Bar Association, issued the following statement on the 2022-23 state budget agreement reached by the governor and legislative leaders:
“The final spending plan includes a number of criminal justice victories for all New Yorkers.
First and foremost, the Raise the Age law remains intact, keeping those who are under 18 and commit non-violent offenses out of criminal courts and adult prisons. Reform of the law in 2017 codified scientific studies proving that young people are less culpable than adults because their brains are still developing.
It is in everyone’s best interest that whenever possible, young people who run afoul of the law become productive members of society. That cannot occur if they are incarcerated for long periods of time in correctional institutions not designed to achieve that goal.
In addition, the association advocates for education as the cornerstone of rehabilitation and commends Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature for repealing a ban that prohibited incarcerated individuals from being eligible for Tuition Assistance Program funding.
Discovery in criminal proceedings should be transparent. The governor and lawmakers resisted the call to make discovery more difficult for criminal defendants. Such a rollback of criminal defendants’ rights would have been a serious blow to access to justice.
Unfortunately, this budget also failed on several fronts. Most notably, it did not include pay increases for assigned counsel.
As a result, women at-risk, children and poor defendants, mostly persons of color, who cannot afford an attorney are increasingly unable to access their constitutionally mandated right to representation. By refusing to raise compensation rates for 18-B lawyers and Attorneys for the Children, New York is putting those most in need of counsel at a disadvantage. This is not only unjust, but flies in the face of the fundamental assertion that all are equal under the law.
We call upon the governor and the Legislature to correct this inequity before the session ends in June.
The failure to approve the Clean Slate Act is also a deep disappointment to the New York State Bar Association. The act would bring much-needed relief to New Yorkers convicted of crimes — particularly people of color. It is devastating for those convicted of crimes to know that employers, landlords and other members of the community have such easy access to their criminal records, making it harder for them to rebuild their lives after serving their debt to society. Again, we urge the governor and Legislature to pass this act without further delay.”
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, the Association 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.
Contact: Susan DeSantis