Hochul’s Budget Pads Prosecution Funding Without Match for Public Defense
A reform law that went into effect in 2020 established “automatic” discovery procedures to make prosecutors share evidence in a matter of weeks, giving defendants a clearer picture of the case against them. But taking advantage of the new process requires resources from both sides, since the information — which can add up to gigabytes for a single case — needs to be exchanged and processed.
Prosecutors have been vocal about the work the change demands, even partially blaming the reform for increasing job turnover. The state took their concerns seriously: Governor Kathy Hochul dedicated $40 million in last year’s state budget for prosecutors to implement discovery reform, and she has proposed renewing that funding stream this year — plus $47 million more for district attorneys’ offices to hire “hundreds of new prosecutors.”
But Hochul has never earmarked new state money for criminal defense. She rejected a request from public defender organizations for parity funding, inflaming an already tense relationship between the increasingly tough-on-crime governor and those tasked with representing low-income criminal defendants.
“If we can’t access the discovery and there’s no time to review it, then there’s no point in having these laws,” said Yung-Mi Lee, president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services.
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