NYCLA is pleased to announce another successful result in its ongoing litigation with the City and State of New York over assigned counsel rates in criminal cases, known informally as the 18B litigation. Two years ago NYCLA successfully sued for an increase in the rates paid to assigned counsel for children and the indigent defendants in criminal and family court cases. In response to the suit, the Supreme Court, New York County (Hon. Lisa Headley, JSC) ruled that the new rates should be $158 per hour, the same rate paid for similar services in federal court. Her ruling applied within the City of New York where NYCLA is located. The prior rates of $60 for out of court work and $75 for in court work had been set more than 20 years before, only after NYCLA brought an earlier suit seeking a court-ordered increase. The rate was never adjusted, for more than 20 years, even for inflation. That freeze began to impact court operations and the representation of indigent defendants guaranteed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Gideon v. Wainwright, by discouraging lawyers from participating in the 18B program due to its low rate of compensation. Hence, we sued, and prevailed, for a second time.
The issue in the next round of the litigation was whether the Court’s ruling should apply retroactively to the date of NYCLA’s filing of the case, or only from the date the Court ordered the increase. Justice Headley applied her ruling retroactively, and NYCLA’s recent success in the litigation was getting that ruling upheld on appeal by the Appellate Division, First Department.
NYCLA is proud of its successful efforts to ensure adequate compensation for assigned counsel for the indigent, which is consistent with our efforts to assure equal access to justice for all. We especially want to thank Michael Dell of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, who represented us pro bono.
Following our successful litigation effort the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), with our approval and support, filed a suit upstate seeking to extend Justice Headley’s ruling to upstate counties as well., where NYSBA has more members than NYCLA. That suit was also successful. We thank NYSBA for their cooperation and support in extending Justice Headley’s ruling throughout the entire state.
About the New York County Lawyers Association
The New York County Lawyers Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as one of the first major bar associations in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender, and has a long history of supporting the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Since its inception, NYCLA has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence. For more information on NYCLA please visit nycla.org.
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This statement was approved for publication by the NYCLA Officersand does not necessarily represent the views of the Board.