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Schuyler County given final approval for centralized arraignment plan

Schuyler County has received notification that New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks and the Office of Court Administration Administrative Board have given final approval to the county’s Centralized Arraignment Part plan for after-hours arrests. The county is currently targeting Monday, March 30 for the first day of operations.

It is part of the county’s ongoing effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants.

The plan is supported by a number of county officials involved in the legal system, including Sheriff William Yessman, District Attorney Joe Fazzary, Public Defender Wesley Roe and County Attorney Steven Getman. It was developed with input from town and village justices and the New York State Office of Court Administration.

The plan was endorsed by the Schuyler County legislature at its February 10 meeting. All legislators in attendance voted for the measure.

Under the plan, anyone arrested within the county when courts are no longer in session, and not given an appearance ticket, will be arraigned in the lobby of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen, as opposed to a town’s jurisdiction. Town and village judges, prosecutors and public defenders will be placed on rotating on-call schedules for arrests made at night, on weekends or during holidays. There is state funding for implementing the plan, which will pay for the cost of installing a judge’s bench in the sheriff’s office lobby.

“Arresting officers must currently maintain custody of an arrestee until able to locate a local court and justice able to conduct the arraignment which is a process that often consumes officer time and can result in the arraignment occurring outside of the times when the Schuyler County Public Defender is able to appear as counsel for the defendant,” the legislature’s resolution of support noted.

“Those charged with a crime are entitled to the assistance of legal counsel at all important stages of their case including at the initial criminal arraignment,” it continued.

A centralized arraignment part, known as a CAP, is not mandated by the state, but many rural counties have found it to be the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the requirements for counsel at arraignment.

The plan is the county’s latest effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants.

Other efforts have included an intermunicipal agreement with Tompkins County for that county to assist in administering the Schuyler County assigned counsel plan to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants and certain family court litigants.

That agreement, prepared by Roe and Getman with input from Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and representatives of Tompkins County, has been praised as “a model approach and is consistent with statewide efforts to help municipalities identify opportunities for cost savings through inter-municipal cooperation, reorganization, and regionalization,” by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services.

A copy of the resolution supporting the plan is available here.