March 21, 2024


Governor Kathy Hochul

Governor of New York State


Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins

President Pro Tempore & Majority Leader

New York State Senate


Hon. Carl E. Heastie

New York State Assembly Speaker

New York State Assembly

RE: Saving IOLA Wasn’t Enough. Stop the ILSF Sweep & Fund Public Defense.

Dear Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie:


As you negotiate the final budget, we urge you to reject the proposed sweep of $234 million from the Indigent Legal Services Fund in the FY25 Executive Budget. These funds are crucial to ensure that low-income New Yorkers receive the high-quality legal representation they deserve and are entitled to by the United States Constitution. The ILS Fund must be restored.


In the 30-day amendments, the Governor correctly removed a $100 million proposed sweep of the IOLA Fund, which supports civil legal services, after widespread outcry, particularly by the legal profession. However, criminal and family court legal services are not covered by the IOLA Fund. These services are funded by New York State through the Indigent Legal Services Fund (ILSF). While the Senate rightfully rejected the sweep in its One House budget, the Assembly and Governor are still considering it. We urge you to join with the Senate in rejecting it full stop.


The ILS Fund was created twenty years ago to ensure high-quality public defense for all low-income New Yorkers. These monies are used to ensure people have access to the zealous representation required to defend themselves in criminal court, to fight to have their children returned to them in family court, and to navigate technical and complicated appeals processes. No one should have to face these legal systems alone without quality legal representation, including crucial investigative and social work support. ILS also provides counties across the state with funding for non-citizen advisals on immigration consequences (called Padilla support). In most counties, ILS funding is the only funding to support constitutionally-required Padilla advisals.


Public defenders meet people at some of the worst moments of their lives, and help them through to the other side. Without sufficient funding from the ILSF, many defender offices around the state will not have sufficient resources to provide many critical services to their clients. In addition, attorneys will be back to handling too many cases at one time, increasing the risk of missing important legal and factual issues. Large caseloads also lead attorneys to leave the public interest field, adding to the attrition that was experienced during the pandemic.


The ILS Fund protects counties from otherwise unfunded mandates. Prior to the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the NYCLU in 2015, counties were responsible for most of the costs of funding constitutionally-mandated public defense, with only a limited amount of state funding available. The Hurrell-Harring settlement clarified that it is the state’s responsibility to fund such obligations. The source for that funding is the ILS Fund. Without these funds, the state risks going backwards in its obligation. Perhaps more importantly, funding in family court is woefully inadequate and the sweep of these funds makes it even more unlikely that the state will play their part in funding these services.


As has been made clear by numerous task forces and reports as well as Chief Judge Wilson in his recent State of the Judiciary remarks, there must be an investment in New York’s family court, including legal services, as well as continued support for legal services for low-income people across the court system.


The ILS fund was created to ensure equity, justice, quality representation and family unification for indigent New Yorkers. The proposed sweep of $234 million undermines these goals and sets a dangerous precedent that will harm our communities. We collectively urge you instead to appropriate the funds in the ILSF for their intended purpose of improving public defense throughout New York State.



1. Albany County Public Defender, by Stephen W. Herrick, Public Defender

2. Allegany County Public Defender’s Office

3. The Bronx Defenders

4. Brooklyn Defender Services

5. Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A

6. CAMBALegalServices

7. Center for Community Alternatives

8. Center for Elder Law & Justice

9. The Center for Family Representation

10. Chemung County Public Advocate

11. Chief Defenders Association of New York

12. Children’s Defense Fund-New York

13. City Bar Justice Center

14. The Door

15. Dutchess County Bar

16. Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office

17. Empire Justice Center

18. Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc.

19. The Fortune Society

20. Frank H. Hiscock Legal Aid Society

21. Genesee County Public Defender

22. Goddard Riverside Law Project

23. Her Justice

24. Housing Conservation Coordinators

25. IOLA Fund of the State of New York

26. Immigrant Defense Project

27. JASA|Legal Services for Elder Justice

28. Journey’s End Refugee Services

29. JustCause

30. Law Offices of Jason F. Valentin, P.A.

31. Lawyers For Children

32. League of Women Voters of New York State

33. League of Women Voters of the Rochester Metro Area

34. Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, Inc.

35. The Legal Aid Society

36. The Legal Aid Society of Nassau County

37. The Legal Aid Society of Rochester, New York

38. The Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County

39. The Legal Aid Society of Westchester County

40. The Legal Project

41. Livingston County Public Defender’s Office

42. Mobilization for Justice

43. Monroe County Bar Association

44. MRS Baking Distribution

45. Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem

46. NMIC

47. New York Civil Liberties Union

48. New York County Defender Services

49. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

50. New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC)

51. New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

52. New York State Defenders Association

53. North American Climate, Conservation and Environment (NACCE)

54. The NYC Justice Peer Initiative

55. Office of Montgomery County Public Defender

56. Oneida County Public Defender

57. Onondaga County Assigned Counsel Program

58. Ontario County Office of the Conflict Defender

59. Ontario County Public Defender

60. Pro Bono Net

61. Queens Defenders

62. Rural Law Center of New York

63. Seneca County Public Defender

64. Tompkins County Assigned Counsel

65. Urban Justice Center

66. Volunteers of Legal Service

67. Wayne County Assigned Counsel Program

68. Wayne County Public Defender

69. Western New York Law Center

70. Wyoming County- Attica Legal Aid

71. Youth Represent