At a time when the criminal defense bar is besieged by critics and disheartened by the low pay for assigned counsel, the organized defenders have chosen as their leader a feisty, 5 feet 2 inch, uprooted Texas journalist who was admitted to the New York bar less than six years ago.

But while Kathryn M. Kase, 39, stumbled into the practice of law mainly because she was bored with newspaper work and tired of hounding the families of homicide victims, she assumes the presidency of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as a true believer in the cause of access to justice.

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