Almost 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court articulated a constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases in Gideon v. Wainwright, New York is poised to more fully actualize that profound declaration. A series of seemingly unconnected events has created a historic opportunity. First, a remarkable paragraph was tucked away in last year’s state budget bill. Inspired by the longstanding crisis in indigent defense, §56-b directed the chief administrator of the courts to “promulgate rules relating to caseloads for attorneys representing indigent clients in criminal matters in cities of one million or more.” The legislation further mandated a five-year phase-in for the court’s solution to the caseload problem. Phase one is to begin on April 1, 2010.
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