New York State Court of Appeals
Assigned Counsel Plan
Ultra Vires – Compensation
Roulan v. County of Onondaga and Assigned Counsel Pannel
Background: The plaintiff, an attorney participating in the defendants’ assigned counsel plan, brought suit against the defendant asserting 10 causes of action for money damages and a declaratory judgment. He argued that the defendants did not pay him as much as he was entitled to receive in the cases to which he was assigned and that the plan’s rules were ultra vires, illegal and a nullity. After summary judgment was granted to the defendants, the plaintiff appealed on the issue of ultra vires. The Appellate Division affirmed with one exception.
Ruling: The Court of Appeals held that the plan does not take away from the courts the ultimate authority to determine assigned counsel’s compensation. It merely provides for a preliminary review and recommendation, which each trial judge is free to accept or reject. The Court of Appeals also held that the Appellate Division erred by issuing any declaration as to the validity of the plan’s provisions as the plaintiff did not have standing due to his speculative financial loss.
Jeffrey R. Parry for the appellant; Jonathan B. Fellows for the responden