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Office of Indigent Legal Services pushed

David A. Paterson

David A. Paterson

Gov. David A. Paterson on Friday sent a bill to the Legislature to create a new Office of Indigent Legal Services within the Executive Department.

The governor said he’s been working with the judiciary, the Association of Counties and the Legislature on the measure.

The new office, outlined in agreed-upon legislation, will oversee legal representation for indigent defendants, examine and monitor services provided to defendants, collect information to study and recommend measures to enhance the quality of representation, and establish criteria for conflict defender services.

The legislation also will create an Indigent Legal Services Board, charged with advising the office on matters related to indigent defense services.

Proponents expect the initiatives will be supported by new and increased fees that will provide about $38 million during fiscal 2010-2011. The additional revenue also is expected to pay for grants to counties and support civil legal services and costs of the judiciary.

New fees include $95, paid by plaintiffs (banks and credit card companies) in consumer credit transactions; a $500 “credentialing” fee, paid by those who sit for the bar exam and were educated outside of the United States and $190 to be paid when the index fee is paid in a foreclosure action. A criminal history search fee, paid when the Office of Court administration performs background checks, also will be raised from $55 to $65.