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Congresswoman Clarke’s Statement on Settlement of Public Defender Lawsuit

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke released the following statement on the settlement between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the State of New York in Hurrell-Harring v. New York that will require reform of the public defender program in parts of New York and hopefully form a model for the entire state.

Under the settlement, five counties (Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington) have agreed to provide every poor criminal defendant with a lawyer at the initial appearance in a courtroom, hire an adequate number of lawyers, investigators and other staff to allow criminal defendants to present their arguments, establish limits on the number of cases each lawyer handles, and implement other provisions that will allow criminal defendants access to justice.

“I commend the dedicated attorneys of the New York Civil Liberties Union and its President, Donna Lieberman, for their work on this lawsuit. The rights protected under the terms of the settlement are the basic rights to which each of us are entitled under the Constitution: right to an attorney in criminal proceedings, the right to access witnesses and evidence to establish a defense, the right against self-incrimination, and, ultimately, the right to due process of law,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “Many of the disparities that exist today in our system of criminal justice are based on disparities that exist within the society itself, in which criminal defendants who are not rich simply cannot afford an adequate defense before, during, or after trial. We have public defenders to address these disparities, but the system works only when public defenders have the resources to pursue justice on behalf of their clients. I am hopeful that this settlement will form the basis for reform of our entire public defender program, to secure for the people of New York those rights that are critical to the continuation of a free society.”

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents many neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which include Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.