Public defenders and legal aid providers rallied at City Hall on Monday to demand fair funding in New York City’s upcoming 2024 budget.
The two groups say not enough funding is being allocated to support their numerous services that help residents. They add they’re dealing with a humanitarian crisis on the job that continues to get worse each year.
Several of the lawyers’ claims of low pay, a high volume of cases and a lack of city funding are forcing many out of their chosen profession.
“This must end, and it must end now,” added one attendee.
Both groups are calling on the city for an investment of $300 million in the upcoming fiscal budget. Public defender Eugene Toussaint said he fears that the lack of financial support for the city’s legal civic service providers will continue to negatively impact an already strained court system and hinder New Yorkers’ right to counsel.
“Our clients are the ones who are hurting,” he said. “They are not getting the representation they need. And if City Hall doesn’t step up and provide increased funding, they will be affected and languishing in Rikers Island and not get cases timely through the justice system.”
Major Eric Adams’ administration has agreed with several issues currently facing public defenders.
“That’s why our administration has been leading the charge with the legislature and the governor since last year, beginning with last fall’s summit at Gracie mansion, and why the city has given hundreds of millions of dollars to our public defenders and das since discovery reform in 2019 without any support from the state.” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
Some lawyers acknowledged they’ve had to take second jobs to continue to provide free legal representation for people and their families.
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