CANTON — St. Lawrence County Lawmakers approved a series of resolutions Jan. 2 approving contracts with the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to accept grant funding to help, among other things, to reduce the caseload burden on indigent defense in the county.
Resolutions approved the acceptance of $300,000 Upstate Quality Improvement and Caseload Reduction Grant for 2017 through 2020, and two rounds of Indigent Legal Services Funds for Jan. 1, 2016 through Dec. 31, 2018 and Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2019.
“The typical amount that the three year terms are capped at is $255,654, broken down to $85,218 a year for three years,” St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen D. Button said of the Indigent Legal Services Funds, which he also referred to as the “ILSF” grants. “In order to meet the amounts that we are supposed to receive, there is one period, every three years that will wind up being $511,380, which is roughly $255,640 combined.”
Additionally, a resolution accepting the second Counsel at First Appearance Grant for 2017-2019 in the amount of $712,395. 74 was also passed.
“The ILSF grants started in 2011 when I was Public Defender and what those were designed to do was to allow public defender’s offices to apply to the newly established Indigent Legal Services Offices to apply funding to areas that were designed to supplement indigent defense services,” Mr. Button said. “We applied for and successfully received all for the grants associated with the Indigent Legal Services funds distributions.”
In 2014 St. Lawrence County was one of the first counties to apply for and receive funding for the creation of one of the first Counsel at First Appearance programs, according to the resolution, and the state Office of Indigent Legal Services recognizes the challenges this creates for many counties particularly those with a number of rural courts and in 2017 the state Office of Indigent Legal Services issued a request for proposals for a second grant associated with counsel at first appearance.
St. Lawrence County Public Defender James M. McGahan said the grants help cover positions in his office, with the Counsel at First Appearance Grant covers a legal secretary in his office while the caseload reduction grant affords him an additional attorney.
But Mr. Button said the grants also provide a Legal Secretary for the Office of the Public Defender, a Keyboard Specialist in the Office of the Conflict Defender as well as assistance to the anticipated cost of the Assigned Counsel Program for the provision of counsel at first appearance for clients.
The Indigent Legal Services Funds covers a chemical dependency counselor for jail evaluations as well as a legal secretary to the assigned counsel administration program, Mr. Button said.
“This really helps all of our indigent defense providers, not just our public defender’s office, but the conflict defender’s office as well as our assigned counsel program,” Mr. Button said. “And I think as James pointed out, we have a number positions through all three levels that are funded through these various grant opportunities that we expect will continue into the future.”