Indigent criminal defendants in New York who wish to appeal their convictions have no right to counsel’s assistance in applying for poor person relief and the assignment of counsel on appeal. They must instead meet the requirements imposed by the relevant Appellate Division rules on their own. Recognizing that poor defendants who wish to appeal may struggle with exacting First Department protocols, CAL, in 2010, began extending offers to help individuals whose efforts to obtain assigned appellate counsel had already failed. Some of these individuals did not even know that the court had rejected their IFP applications until CAL informed them.

The result has been hugely gratifying. Dozens of poor individuals who might otherwise have unwittingly forfeited their right to appeal by failing to file the proper documents with the court, have, with CAL’s assistance, successfully had counsel assigned. These include individuals convicted of serious felonies, individuals who speak little or no English, and individuals struggling with illiteracy and/or mental health issues. It is CAL’s hope that eventually, no individual who wishes to appeal will lose that fundamental right because of a failure to file a form or provide required information to the court.

Barbara Zolot and Lauren Springer administer this project.