NYCLA Announces Victory in Court of Appeals Ruling on Hurrell-Harring, et al. v. New York
May 7, 2010 – New York, NY – On May 6, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that indigent defendants denied their constitutional right to counsel do not have to be first convicted before seeking to vindicate that right. In its ruling on the case, Hurrell-Harring, et al. v. New York, brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Court concluded, “Wrongful convictions … are not the only injustices that command our present concern…. The absence of representation at critical stages is capable of causing grave and irreparable injury to persons who will not be convicted.” Addressing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 decision guaranteeing the right to counsel for all, the Court announced that “Gideon‘s guarantee to the assistance of counsel does not turn upon a defendant’s guilt or innocence, and neither can the availability of a remedy for its denial.”
The landmark decision affirms the role of the court in remedying a constitutionally inadequate system of representation for poor defendants in criminal cases. The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) has long advocated for a quality, properly resourced indigent defense system.
NYCLA joined with other bars and law professors on the amicus brief, written by lead counsel Susan J. Walsh, a partner at Moskowitz, Book & Walsh, LLP and NYCLA officer, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ (NACDL) Executive Director Norman L. Reimer and NACDL Assistant Director of Public Affairs & Communications Ivan J. Dominguez.
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual identity. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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