MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone spent time during his hour-plus long budget presentation last week praising the work that his office has done in 2020 despite a list of challenges his staff has faced.
Barone says that his office is handling one of the highest caseloads in New York State for public defender’s offices outside of New York City. He explains the caseloads continue to increase in both the Criminal and Family Court Divisions. Despite the caseload, Barone states that his office has one of the highest acquittal rates in the State.
The Public Defender says those rankings are a testament to the work of his staff.
“The services my department provides, there’s not a comparison to where we were when I first came on (in 2012). Not a comparison,” Barone said. “The services, and that’s one thing I’m very proud of, is even though our local share has remained the same, we’ve been able to provide services to double the case load and not only represent the vast majority of new clients, but we’ve been able to enhance the services.”
“The whole idea is that we are now representing the entire county much more, I think without question, effectively. (The) response to the clients and their needs…our office, without a doubt, is 24/7.” he added. Barone says his office has to appear at arraignments 24/7. 365. in accordance with laws in New York State.
Barone says, because of various funding through grants, local share, etc., his office is able to hire attorneys who are “really committed to doing this work.” He was later asked by Legislator Terry Niebel whether or not Barone has experienced difficulty in hiring local attorneys.
“Absolutely not.” Barone replied.
Barone says that he is requesting an additional five full-time employees in 2021, which include two paralegals, two secretaries and a clerk. The salaries and insurance would be covered under a five-year, $15 million grant from Indigent Legal Services (ILS).
In short, the attorney says that there’d be no cost to the County.
Barone, overall, says he’s not asking for additional funding for expenses. He, however, says that as long as the local share doesn’t decrease, the funding from ILS will remain the same.