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Gary Horton honored for work with veterans

Veterans Defense Program to add Long Island office

By: Bennett Loudon//May 31, 2018

Gary Horton honored for work with veterans

Veterans Defense Program to add Long Island office

By: Bennett Loudon//May 31, 2018//

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Gary Horton, co-founder and current director of the Veterans Defense Program of the New York State Defenders Association, has been awarded the 2018 Kutak-Dodds Prize from the National Legal Aid & Defenders Association.

Gary Horton
Gary Horton

Horton will be presented with the award on June 13 in Washington, D.C., at the NLADA’s annual Exemplar Dinner.

The award, established in 1989, honors civil legal aid attorneys and public defenders for their work with individuals who cannot afford legal representation.

“It pleases me that this award will bring recognition to the Veterans Defense Program, its work and initiatives. I am most thankful for the attention that will be brought to the struggle our veterans face reintegrating in their communities and the need to provide veterans meaningful understanding and help,” Horton said.

The Robert J. Kutak Foundation and NLADA, in memory of Robert J. Kutak and Kenneth R. Dodds, jointly sponsor the prize — a $10,000 cash award.

Kutak and Dodds were former partners in the Omaha office of Kutak Rock LLP.

Horton was a public defender for 30 years, including the last 20 as Genesee County Public Defender. He is a founding member and past president of Genesee Veterans Support Network.

Realizing that a growing numbers of veterans with service-related mental health illnesses were lost in New York’s criminal justice system, in April 2014 he co-founded the Veterans Defense Program (VDP), which serves as a resource center for attorneys representing veterans.

In 2017, according to the program’s 2017 annual report, VDP helped 370 and trained 577 public defenders representing veterans in criminal and family court.

VDP serves as a backup resource to support attorneys, public defender offices, legal aid societies and assigned counsel programs. In some cases VDP provides direct representation for veterans.

VDP, which gets base funding of $500,000 from the state, will get an additional $220,000 in 2018 to open a new office on Long Island, probably in Central Islip, Suffolk County.

“Long Island has the heaviest concentration of veterans in the state, so that’s a good place for us to have a presence,” Horton said.

On a per-capita basis, the state’s Southern Tier region has the highest number of veterans.

“We asked for adds in both of those areas, to open an office in both. We got the Long Island one. That’s going to allow us to hire another attorney, another case manager and a clerical person to staff an office down there,” Horton said.

Horton received the first-ever National Alliance for Mental Health-NYS Criminal Justice Award in 2016, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York Special Service Award in 2005, the New York State Bar Association Criminal Justice Section David S. Michaels Award in 2006, and the New York State Defenders Association Wilfred R. O’Connor Award in 2011.

Horton received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Hobart College in Geneva and his law degree from Hofstra University School of Law, in Hempstead, Nassau County.

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