Key Court Rulings On Criminal Defense, Foster Care

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The New York State Court of Appeals on Thursday handed down two rulings with potentially important implications for the state’s foster children and criminal defendants.

Neither ruling was a final decision in a case. Instead, both the decisions by the state’s highest court merely allowed cases to go forward.

In The City of New York v. Thomas A. Maul, the court ruled 4-2 to back an appeals court that had allowed a group of developmentally disabled children and young adults to join in a suit alleging the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the city’s Administration for Children’s Services failed to give them services they were entitled to by law.

Meanwhile, in Kimberly Hurrell-Harring v. The State of New York, the high court orders a lower court to reconsider a case in which several former criminal defendants who claim they were not given adequate counsel by public defenders.

The opinion by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, joined by three other judges but rejected by three others who dissented, argues that the alleged non-performance of public defenders was so vast that it constituted not just poor performance by counsel but, for all intents and purposes, a total absence of counsel—in violation of the Gideon ruling that requires criminal defendants to be provided a lawyer if they want one.