The Appellate Division, Second Department, has stopped taking applications for its trial-level 18-B panels, saying it has plenty of available attorneys to represent indigent criminal defendants and it expects that New York City's new assigned-counsel program, which involves greater reliance on institutional providers, will result in a decrease in the demand for 18-B attorneys.
Within the past week, a Second Department committee handling assigned-counsel matters has temporarily paused from accepting new applications for attorneys to sit on 18-B panels, said Aprilanne Agostino, the department's clerk of the court.
The move marks one of the first repercussions of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to issue contracts for institutional providers to take on more "conflict representation" cases in indigent criminal defense matters (NYLJ, Oct. 31, 2012).
The reasoning behind the Second Department's decision was twofold, said Agostino: There were already "more than enough people to do the work" and administrators "anticipated a decrease" in the number of cases assigned to 18-B attorneys going forward.
Agostino said attorneys on the panel could be "under-utilized" as more institutional providers step in to handle cases.
But if demand for assigned counsel does not decrease after the city implements its program, the department will resume accepting applications, she said.
A source familiar with the Second Department's assigned-counsel program said he could not recall a time when 18-B applications were suspended for any reason.
Susanna Rojas, clerk of the court for the Appellate Division, First Department, said that court is still accepting applications and has not made any re-calibrations in the wake of a Court of Appeals ruling in October 2012 that found the mayor's plan valid.
Rojas said she did not anticipate having to make any changes in 18-B administration, but said adjustments could be considered if needed.
"Right now, we'll proceed as we're normally proceeding," she said.