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Case Name Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York PD-NY-0002
Docket / Court 8866-07 ( State Court )
Additional Docket(s) 8866/2007  [ 07-8866 ]
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On November 8, 2007, 20 named plaintiffs--criminal defendants with cases pending in New York state courts--filed this class action lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Albany County. The plaintiffs sued the State under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violations of the Sixth and the ... read more >
On November 8, 2007, 20 named plaintiffs--criminal defendants with cases pending in New York state courts--filed this class action lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Albany County. The plaintiffs sued the State under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for violations of the Sixth and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article 1, Section 6 of the New York Constitution. Represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union and private counsel, plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief to ensure meaningful and effective representation for indigent defendants.

The plaintiffs claimed that New York's persistent failure to guarantee effective legal services for indigent defendants in five New York counties was a violation of their right to counsel. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the State's system effectively denied indigents their right to counsel because of its (1) failure to provide representation to some defendants at critical stages of their cases; (2) eligibility standards that excluded indigent people from counsel; (3) lack of attorney-client consultation and communication; (4) insufficient hiring criteria, performance standards, and trainings and supervisory controls; (5) insufficient resources for investigations and expert witnesses; (6) lack of independence from political, prosecutorial, and judicial authorities; and (7) inadequate resources and compensation for public defenders as compared with prosecutors.

On August 12, 2008, Judge Eugene Devine denied the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The defendants appealed to the state intermediate appellate court (the Supreme Court, Appellate Division). In July 2009, Judge Michael Kavanagh overruled the lower court and granted the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. 66 A.D.3d 84. He held that the plaintiffs could only bring retrospective cases charging a denial of counsel. Therefore, plaintiffs would have to wait for conviction before claiming insufficient counsel. The plaintiffs then appealed to New York's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals.

On May 6, 2010, Judge Jonathan Lippman found for the plaintiffs, ruling that (1) the issue of whether the State of New York was meeting its constitutional obligation under Gideon v. Wainwright (372 U.S. 335) was ripe for review, the plaintiffs' preconviction status notwithstanding. Judge Lippman also found that (2) the issue of the state's compliance with the Gideon requirement to provide indigent people with lawyers was not an issue best left to the legislature, and could be considered and ordered by the Courts. 930 N.E.2d 217. The case was remanded to the trial court (New York Supreme Court).

Meanwhile, in 2010, the New York legislature created the Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS) to gather information, make recommendations, and distribute state funds to improve legal services.

On January 6, 2011, Judge Karen Peters, writing for the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, certified the plaintiffs' class and remanded the case to the Supreme Court for discovery. 81 A.D.3d 69. Class certification had previously been denied in July 2009 by the Supreme Court.

On September 1, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a Statement of Interest in the case. Without taking a position on the particular facts, the DOJ provided its opinion on what constitutes a "constructive" denial of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Even where a defense attorney represents indigent defendants, constructive denial of counsel may occur if (1) lawyers for indigent defendants must systematically work under substantial structural limitations, or (2) traditional markers of representation are systematically compromised. The statement provided examples of such conditions including: insufficient resources; excessive caseloads; serious understaffing to public defender offices; and inadequate opportunity for consultation with clients. Such conditions indicate that appointment of counsel is "superficial," and therefore allows a court to step in to correct Sixth Amendment violations.

The DOJ's statement helped prompt a settlement agreement on October 21, 2014. The settlement required the state to implement significant reforms in the five New York counties specifically named in the complaint. Specifically, the state would (1) guarantee a lawyer at arraignment for every indigent defendant; (2) require ILS to track and report on lawyer caseloads and set appropriate caseload standards for lawyers representing indigent defendants; (3) ensure adequate conditions for attorneys including supervision, training, manageable caseloads and access to investigators, interpreters, and expert witnesses; (4) create eligibility standards so more New York defendants have access to public defense services; and (5) implement monitoring and reporting procedures. The settlement also required the Governor's office to use its best efforts to enact legislation necessary to implement the settlement agreement. Overall, the State was required to apportion $8.5 million to implement the settlement agreement, and $5.5 million for attorney fees. The settlement agreement was set to last for 7.5 years, and was court enforceable, after a pre-court dispute resolution process.

On June 17, 2016, the New York Assembly passed A10706, requiring states to take financial responsibility for indigent defense. Supporters of the bill claimed that by removing the burden from counties, it would have helped ensure defendants received appropriate counsel. Governor Cuomo vetoed the bill in December 2016.

In April 2017, New York passed a bill to implement many of the requirements listed in the settlement. While counties will be responsible for covering the expense initially, the State will reimburse counties for these expenses.

Blase Kearney - 07/02/2012
Gabriela Hybel - 05/23/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) State of New York
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are a class of criminal defendants with charges pending in New York state courts who have been "outright" or "constructively denied" the assistance of counsel.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2014 - 2022
Filing Year 2007
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PD-MI-0003 : Duncan v. State of Michigan (State Court)
Additional Resources
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  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York (Challenging New York State's Failure to Provide Adequate Public Defense Services)
Date: Mar. 25, 2006
(New York Civil Liberties Union)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

8866/2007 (State Trial Court)
PD-NY-0002-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/18/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
General Documents
PD-NY-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2007
Amended Complaint
PD-NY-0002-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/28/2008
Opinion (Supreme Court, Denying Motion to Recuse) (866 N.Y.S.2d 92)
PD-NY-0002-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/16/2008
Source: Westlaw
Decision/Order (Supreme Court Denying Class Certification)
PD-NY-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2009
Source: ACLU
Decision/Order (Supreme Court Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction)
PD-NY-0002-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/15/2009
Source: ACLU
Opinion and Order (Ct. of Appeals, Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss) (66 A.D.3d 84)
PD-NY-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/16/2009
Source: ACLU
Opinion (Ct. of Appeals, Denying State's Motion to Dismiss) (930 N.E.2d 217)
PD-NY-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/06/2010
Source: ACLU
Opinion and Order (Ct. of Appeals, Certifying Class) (81 A.D.3d 69)
PD-NY-0002-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/06/2011
Source: ACLU
Opinion and Order
PD-NY-0002-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/06/2011
Source: ACLU
Opinion (Ct of Appeals, Granting Plaintiffs' Motion to Withdraw Certain Plaintiffs as Named Class Representatives) (977 N.Y.S.2d 464)
PD-NY-0002-0012.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2013
Source: Westlaw
Statement of Interest of the United States
PD-NY-0002-0010.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 09/01/2014
Stipulation and Order of Settlement
PD-NY-0002-0005.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 10/21/2014
Source: ACLU
Judges Devine, Eugene P. (State Supreme Court)
PD-NY-0002-0007 | PD-NY-0002-0008 | PD-NY-0002-0011
Malone, Janet C. (State Trial Court)
Peters, Karen K. (State Supreme Court)
PD-NY-0002-0004 | PD-NY-0002-0006 | PD-NY-0002-0009 | PD-NY-0002-0012
Pigott, Eugene F. Jr. (State Appellate Court)
Rose, Robert S. (State Supreme Court)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dunn, Christopher (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Eisenberg, Arthur (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Freeman, Daniel J. (New York)
Greenberg, Daniel L. (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Hung, Palyn (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Kim-Reuter, Sena (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Konor, Estee (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Lieberman, Donna (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Lippman, Jonathan (New York)
Naranjo, Ximena (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Paris, Michelle (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002
Stein, Gary (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002 | PD-NY-0002-0005
Stoughton, Corey (New York)
PD-NY-0002-0001 | PD-NY-0002-0002 | PD-NY-0002-0005 | PD-NY-0002-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Cochran, David (New York)
Kapsalis, Leonard (New York)
Kerwin, Adrienne (New York)
McCarthy, Michael P. (New York)
Morris, Dennis (New York)
Reinhardt, Michael G. (New York)
Rhinehart, Carol L. (New York)
Rossi, Geoffrey (New York)
Scott, William A. (New York)
Other Lawyers Blumberg, Jeffrey (District of Columbia)
Gayle, Winsome (District of Columbia)
Kappelhoff, Mark (District of Columbia)
Katzman, Jennifer (District of Columbia)
Killebrew, Paul (District of Columbia)
Lash, Karen (District of Columbia)
Moran, Molly J. (District of Columbia)
Preston, Judith C. (District of Columbia)
Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

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