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Report Finds Public Defenders Overworked

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Legal aid advocates are pushing for a bill that would shift the costs for public defenders in New York from the counties to the state.

Two groups which provide legal aid to those unable to afford an attorney released a report late last week that suggests New York's public defense system is in a "state of crisis." They studied one county -- Franklin -- in northern New York, saying the problems there -- such as five lawyers doing the work of 12 -- are common in other counties across New York.

Johnathan Gradess is executive director of the New York State Defenders Association. He says the state is obligated to provide legal aid, not its counties.

There is bipartisan support in the State Legislature for a bill that would create an independent commission that would run the state's public defense system. State Senator Dale Volker of Depew is one of its sponsors.

The commission would make sure there is adequate funding for public defense and better training for attorneys.

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