Assigned Counsel Program
To balance the constitutional obligation of the right to counsel with the resources afforded the assigned counsel program.
About the Department
Article 18-B of the County Law requires Cayuga County to choose one of several systems for providing public defense services. An Assigned Counsel Plan developed by the Cayuga County Bar Association and administered by the County was selected as the method of providing legal counsel to those persons who are deemed indigent.
The Administrator and Deputy Administrator of the Assigned Counsel program are responsible for implementing a method of assigning private legal counsel, on a rotating basis, to persons accused of a crime who are financially unable to obtain counsel.
In addition to providing legal counsel to indigent persons charged with a crime, indigent parolees are entitled to court appointed counsel in proceedings brought to revoke their parole. Cayuga County is required to appoint counsel for parolees at revocation hearings and to handle appeals from unfavorable parole release or revocation decisions.
Assigned Counsel Plan
The Assigned Counsel Plan is utilized by twenty-six attorneys and forty-seven judges with assignments of over thirteen hundred cases and the processing of over twelve hundred vouchers.
The right to counsel guaranteed to every American citizen accused of a crime is embodied in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. An integral component of the right to counsel is the right to court-appointed counsel for those unable to hire an attorney.
In Gideon, the Supreme Court observed that: The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law.
Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence.