NYC Public Defenders Walk Out On the Law

Americans are well-accustomed to politicians and their exaggerated theatrics.  However, most Americans are not nearly so comfortable with lawyers engaging in activism in the courtroom, and rightfully so.  Yet, public defenders in New York City are demonstrating daily their propensity for activism in and outside of the courts.

Since last November, dozens of public defenders from the Legal Aid Society, which is contracted by the state for its services, have now and then walked out of court at midday to protest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their enforcement efforts against illegal aliens. The goal? To pressure Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and the state legislature to pass Assembly Bill (AB) 11013, the “Protect Our Courts Act,” which would force the New York State Unified Court System to stop cooperating with ICE officials without first receiving a warrant from a federal judge.

Of course, ICE officials already have the statutory authority to arrest illegal aliens in public places without the issuance of a warrant to state and local officials. For example, ICE may arrest an illegal alien in a public place, like a courthouse, if they have probable cause to believe they’re removable, just as police officers are authorized to arrest a U.S. citizen in the same setting with probable cause to believe they’ve committed a crime. Such normal law enforcement procedures are common sense to most Americans.  Perhaps not to New York City litigators.

Moreover, these public defenders receive taxpayer dollars to represent indigent criminal defendants before the court system, including illegal aliens. So, when these litigators resign from their legal duties to advance a political agenda, they are doing so on the taxpayers’ dime, and possibly even in violation of their ethical obligations as attorneys.

Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to bankroll the political aims of public defenders or anyone else who is paid by the state. If public defenders wish to advance a political cause, they should do so on their own time and not on the taxpayers’.

About Author


Colton joined FAIR in 2018 as a legislative advisor for state and local policy. Prior to FAIR, Colton responded to constituent needs and legislative issues in the offices of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and U.S. Representatives Virginia Foxx, Mark Meadows, and Richard Hudson. His congressional service covered a wide range of policy issues including agriculture, immigration, health care, welfare, and economic development. Before this, he was responsible for direct lobbying, grassroots mobilization, and strategic initiatives for several advocacy groups, including the North Carolina Association of Realtors, the Susan B. Anthony List, and Concerned Veterans for America. Colton holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Sociology from Western Carolina University.

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