free hit counter code Ulster County to launch court to deal with late-night, weekend cases –

Ulster County to launch court to deal with late-night, weekend cases

KINGSTON, N.Y. — County officials hope the problem of finding public defenders and local magistrates to appear for late-night and weekend cases will be resolved in early June when the county’s centralized arraignment part court is slated to be up and running.

In a May 15 update to County Executive Jen Metzger, Public Defender Elizabeth Corrado said all that needs to happen for the court to start hearing cases is for local magistrates to get training on the computer system that is being installed.

“It is my understanding that training will take place in early June with the planned launch of CAP the second week of June. Exact dates have not been finalized,” Corrado told the administration.

In 2018, the state passed legislation requiring public defenders to be present at the initial arraignment of an individual’s arrest. Under former Pubic Defender Andrew Kossover, that requirement was filled by volunteers in the office who received a $10,000 annual stipend provided by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services.

Under that program, the county was divided into four quadrants with two public defenders assigned to each, Corrado said.

“The program was just underway when COVID hit, so in the first two years, it was not difficult to get staffing because almost everything was virtual,” she said.

When local courts went back to in-person arraignments it became more and more difficult to find volunteers willing to be on call overnight to respond to after-hours arraignments, although Corrado said there are still five public defenders willing to take some after-hours assignments.

In March, the Ulster Town Board members approved hiring an assigned counsel for late-night and weekend cases brought to town court after finding that some defendants were being held in police custody longer than necessary because no public defender was available for an after-hours arraignment.

And in May, Rosendale Police Chief Scott Schaffrick said town justices are refusing to arraign defendants after hours, or even answer their phones when called by police because they can’t get public defenders to show up to court.

Like the town of Ulster, Rosendale has also hired its own attorneys to handle after-hours arraignments.

Corrado conceded that the current situation is “untenable,” but said she has been unable to get others in her office willing to volunteer for the late-night assignments.

“The program is voluntary,” she said. “I cannot make it a mandatory program because I’ll lose my lawyers.

“I’ve had the job postings up for months and months and I’m getting no candidates,” she added.

That will hopefully all change next month when the county launches the centralized arraignment court at the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center, she said.

The court, which will be in session every day from 6 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. and again from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., will be staffed by rotating judges, public defenders and assistant district attorneys and will replace the current system of local judges and defense attorneys being called by arresting agencies after court hours for arraignments, Corrado said. Arraignments during regular court hours will take place in the local courts of jurisdiction. Those arrested after 8:30 p.m. can be held at the Law Enforcement Center until the court resumes at 6 a.m.

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