Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New York City Budget Reduces Spending
For District Attorneys and Legal Aid

On July 7, 2008, the New York Law Journal reported:

Faced with grim economic times, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Council has cut funding for both the city's district attorneys and the Legal Aid Society in the $59.1 billion city budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Citywide, the six district attorney offices will receive $249.9 million in the 2009 fiscal year. Though that amount is 2.7 percent less than those offices received in the last fiscal year, it is still nearly $12 million higher than the $238 million the mayor had proposed when he issued his preliminary budget in January.

Funding for the Legal Aid Society's contract to represent poor criminal defendants also was pared by 2.5 percent, to $83.3 million from $85.4 million.

Several district attorneys said that while the cuts would make carrying out their mission more difficult, their offices would cope by keeping a close rein on new hiring.

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Two other groups handling criminal cases for indigent defendants were hurt by the cutbacks.

The Office of Appellate Defender lost its $2.4 million grant from the City Council. For many years, the council has been the only source of city funding for the group, though last year it raised $300,000 from private sources, said its attorney-in-charge, Richard M. Greenberg.

Mr. Greenberg, however, said the program is likely to survive because he expects the city's Criminal Justice Coordinator's Office will award the group a contract this year in the "$2 million range."

The City Council also trimmed funding for Neighborhood Defender Services, a group that provides representation to indigent defendants in the Harlem area, by $250,000 to $3 million.

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