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New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City) today issued the following statement in response to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's recently released fiscal report, entitled "New York's Deficit Shuffle."

"Comptroller DiNapoli's report – highlighted in various news media stories today – that nearly $6.6 million from the Indigent Legal Services Fund has been 'swept' into the state's General Fund raises serious concerns about the ability of New York State to meet the constitutionally protected right to counsel in criminal matters.

"Diverting this money into the General Fund, instead of using it to pay for the growing need for legal defense services to the indigent – for which it was created – seriously jeopardizes the right to effective counsel that our Constitution demands. The state's budget should not be balanced on the backs of the indigent nor should it be balanced at the expense of providing equal access to the justice system for all New Yorkers."

The statute governing attorney registration, Judiciary Law section 468-a, specifies that $50 of the $350 biennial fee "shall be allocated to and deposited in a fund established by section 98-b of the state finance law," which is the statute establishing the Indigent Legal Defense Fund. In 2003, the State Bar's House of Delegates, the official policy-making body of the New York State Bar Association, endorsed the establishment of an Indigent Legal Services Fund with the condition that $50 of the biennial attorney registration fee be dedicated in its entirety as a source of permanent funding for this Fund.


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