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Defender’s report stresses challenges in ’11

Monroe County Public Defender Tim Donaher submitted the office’s 2010 Annual Report to the Monroe County Legislature this week.

Donaher stressed that 2011 will be a challenging year for the Public Defender’s Office and the county.

“We have the same concerns everyone else has, which is that this is going to be a very difficult year for county government,” Donaher said. “Because of the realities of the county’s economy and zero-tolerance police policies, our case loads have gone up significantly.”

The report indicates a significant increase in the number of criminal cases handled by the Public Defender’s Office in 2010, and changes in state family law have imposed a greater burden on its Family Court Bureau.

“Our goal is to provide to the poor who are accused of a crime, or who are entitled to representation in family court, truly competent legal representation which is at least equal to that which they would expect to obtain from privately retained counsel,” Donaher said in the report.

A total of 10 new attorneys were added to the office last year to help meet the increased demand for services, but caseloads typically exceed the recommendations established by the national Legal Aid and Defender’s Association.

In Rochester City Court, for example, attorneys with the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office averaged 1,100 cases each in a year. The Family Court Bureau represented 3,451 clients in 2010, an increase of nearly 600 over 2009.

Caseloads are expected to rise even higher in 2011.

In the fall of 2011, the county Public Defender’s Office will be one of five national pilot sites hosting a new law school graduate fellowship program known as the Public Defender Corps. The Corps is designed to provide training for those interested in indigent public defense work.     

The Monroe County Public Defender’s Office 2010 report will be available online at www.monroecounty.gov.