Public Defender

Functions, Goals & Accomplishments

Functions

The Public Defenders Office exists pursuant to Constitutional and Statutory mandate (Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel and New York State County Law Article 18–a) and provides legal representation to those individuals who cannot afford an attorney and are:

  • Charged with offenses, misdemeanors and felony crimes in the criminal courts of Genesee County,
  • Appealing criminal convictions,
  • Parties in proceedings before the Family Court of Genesee County dealing with issues of parental rights or the loss of liberty and,
  • Juveniles petitioned to Family Court with regard to allegations of Juvenile Delinquency or being a Person In Need of Supervision.

The existence of the department benefits clients represented, the Criminal Justice and Family Court Justice systems, and the community as a whole by:

  • Fostering the efficient administration of the systems,
  • Safeguarding and protecting the rights of the citizens by guaranteeing that the right of counsel is meaningfully provided by a professional and support staff dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused and integrity of the justice system and,
  • Identifying collateral needs of the client, such as mental illness or substance abuse and arranging referrals to treatment.

County Government benefits:

  • By the provision of mandated services at a cost savings over other statutory alternatives for the delivery of these services such as assigned counsel plans and,
  • Fiscally from the staffs’ commitment to exploration of and advocacy of alternatives to incarceration where appropriate.

Goals

The primary goals of the Public Defenders Office are:

  • To provide the best possible representation to each individual client,
  • To guarantee the protection of the individual client's rights,
  • To increase supervision and in house training, as well as formal continuing legal education for the staff,
  • To focus on alternatives to incarceration, both pretrial and dispositional, with a particular emphasis on treatment alternatives,
  • To explore better methods for the system as a whole to identify low risk offenders (both current risk to the community and risk of recidivism) who would be appropriate for alternatives to incarceration. This effort is formalized through our participation on Criminal Justice Advisory Council subcommittees and,
  • To advocate for system approaches and dispositions that seek to address the root causes of crime on an individual basis and reduce recidivism. At present a special awareness of veterans in the criminal justice system, recognition of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and appropriate treatment referrals are a primary concern.

By doing so, the integrity of the system as whole is upheld as a secondary goal, to the benefit of the community at large.

 

Accomplishments 

The office has actively participated in ongoing systemic dialogue with other components of the state, regional and local criminal justice system through active participation in:

  • The New York State Defenders Association,
  • Chief Defender Meetings on the state and regional level,
  • The Genesee County Criminal Justice Advisory Council and,
  • The Genesee County Magistrates Association.

Public Defender Gary A. Horton continues as a member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Defenders Association. During 2011, he was appointed to the New York State Bar Association Committee to Ensure Quality of Mandated Representation and was awarded the New York State Defenders Association Wilfred R. O'Connor Award.

In 2007, Elizabeth Raponi, Case Manager, was awarded the Constance Miller Award from the Genesee County Mental Health Association.

Our focus on our returning veterans and the problems they experience in reintegrating, has led to a veteran's track and mentoring program in the City of Batavia Treatment Courts.