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Goehler v Cortland County

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Goehler v. Cortand County 2009 WL 4061262 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept) 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 08725

Plaintiffs are appointed attorneys for indigent clients in Cortland County, New York. They filed a claim stating Local Law No. 1 that details the procedure for appointing counsel to indigents as it violates County Law 722 and the Municiple Home Rule Law. Home Rule Law provides for the appointment of counsel if the public defender appointed to the indigent claims a conflict. Local Law No. 1 called for the appointed counsel administrator would then appoint an attorney from the assigned counsel panel. The attoneys believed that this law was invalid from current law and a ruling from William F. Ames and Julie A. Campbell, Judges of Family, County and Surrogate's Court of Cortland County stating that the local law was in violation of County Law 722 and the Municipal Home Rule.
Procedural Posture:
In August 2007 William F. Ames and Julie A. Campbell issued a decision stating that Local Law 1 violated County Law 722 and the Muncipal Home Rule. The two judges then created a new procedure for the assignment of counsel. The plaintiffs then filed their complaint and the County Administrator's answered and counter-claimed, stating the decision by the judges was null and void for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiffs and Defendants both moved for summary judgement and the County defendants moved for dismissal of the complaint and cross claims. The Supreme Court declared Local Law No. 1 invalid. The County appealed, and the Appealate Court affirmed. Holding:
The Appellate Division, Third Department of the New York Supreme Court affirmed the decision below and held the Local Law invalid.
Critical Analysis:
First the County argue that the lower court improperly declared Local Law No. 1 invalid because it limits the courts local power to adopt local law. However, the Court said that the local law conflicts with state law that states that no local law can affect the state court. Here, Local Law No. 1 clearly affects state courts. Also the Appellate Court held that violates County Law 722 which requies that no County Law superceds a state law because it does not fit within any of the state provision to appoint indigents counsel. However, the court declined to address any of the defendants other arguments based on their holding Local Law No. 1. invalid.

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