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New York Appellate Court Discusses Compensation Rate of Legal Counsel


The plaintiff in this case is the New York County Lawyers’ Association. The defendant in the case is the State of New York.

The Case

A New York Injury Lawyer said this is a bench trial case that is seeking a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction as to whether or not the state of New York’s failure to raise the rates of compensation for assigned counsel violates the statutory and constitutional rights of an individual to gain effective and meaningful representation. The plaintiff in the case, the New York County Lawyers’ Association is seeking an increase of the rate of compensation for both in court and out of court work for assigned counsel.

Court Opinion

In the opinion of the court, the evidence that has emerged from this case shows the reality of indigent adults and children suffer from in Criminal Court, Family Court, and Criminal Term of the Supreme Court. The Court feels that these individuals are at an unreasonable risk to be subject of a process that is not swift or deliberate, and fails to confirm reliability and confidence in our legal system.

It is felt that the “True Administration of Justice is the Firmest Pillar of Good Government” and that the courts in the state of New York cannot be held true to this statement of George Washington when the most vulnerable people in our society are appearing in courts without advocates to defend or champion their cause. The procrastination of the legislative and executive branches has created a crisis in the assigned counsel field and thus has impaired the ability of the judiciary system to function properly.

It is felt that the state of New York has continuously ignored their constitutional obligation to the underprivileged by failing to raise the compensation levels for assigned counsel. This has resulted in many cases counsel being denied or a delay in the appointment of counsel. Additionally, this has lead to these individuals having legal representation that is less meaningful and effective.

Evidence has shown that the rate for assigned counsel had an initial set rate of $15 per hour for in court work and of $10 per hour for out of court work. The amount was increased in 1978 to $25 for in court work and $15 for out of court work. The final rate increase occurred in 1985 where the amounts were increased to $40 and $25. A Queens Personal Injury Lawyer his increase was nearly 20 years ago and is not longer effective.

Court Ruling

In this particular case the Court finds that the failure of the state of New York to raise the levels of compensation for assigned counsel does, in fact, violate the statutory and constitutional right of an individual to have effective and meaningful representation. The Court rules this that beyond a reasonable doubt, this failure of raising compensation obstructs the judiciary’s ability to function.

Based on this evidence, the Court rules that the rates for assigned counsel be raised to $90 per hour. A Staten Island Personal Injury Lawyer said there is to be no distinction given to in court or out of court work and there are no ceilings for the total compensation per case. This rate will be applied to all assigned counsel and will not be subject to change until the Legislative branch of the state takes over the issue at hand.

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