New York State Defenders Association Recognizes Three Champions for Defendants’ Rights

New York State Defenders Association Recognizes Three Champions for Defendants’ Rights

August 5, 2015

The New York State Defenders Association, unlike most legal service agencies, does not target a single, vulnerable demographic in need of legal counsel. NYSDA’s members are not the underrepresented, but the representatives themselves – defense lawyers from across the state, often squeezed by limited budgets, insufficient experience, and a short supply of staff. 

As an advocate for advocates, NYSDA engages with exceptional defenders whose own activism extends beyond the wooden panels of New York’s courtrooms. At a statewide training summit in Saratoga Springs, three of these defenders were celebrated amongst their peers in practice. 

The Service of Justice Award went to a legal practitioner committed to sharing her wealth of knowledge with professionals across the country. As Executive Director of the Center for Community Alternatives, a Syracuse-based initiative, Martha Weissman has not only demanded alternatives to incarceration in specific legal cases, but has also energized the dialogue on unconventional forms of justice with the publication of scholarly papers and work aboard NYSDA’s Board of Directors. 

In addition to a foremost proponent of rethinking punishment, NYSDA honored a leading voice on a client-oriented approach to defense. Roger Brazill, First Assistant Public Defender in Monroe County, received the 2015 Wilfred R. O’Connor Award. His colleague, Monroe County Public Defender Timothy P. Donaher, applauded the recognition of Mr. Brazill, who “is always reminding me, and others, that our only obligation is to zealously advocate on behalf of our clients to ensure that they are receiving the best possible representation.”

Lastly, while NYSDA reserves the Wilfred R. O’Connor Award for longtime lawyers, the Kevin M. Anderson Memorial Award acknowledges a newer member of the public defense sector. Luke Nebush, who received certification from the bar just seven years ago, has already made a notable impression. As First Assistant Public Defender in Oneida County, Mr. Nebush has “handled some of the most complex, difficult, and consuming cases in our office,” attested Chief Trial Counsel Leland D. McCormac, III.

While the awards may have been a highlight, public defense lawyers had convened in Saratoga Springs for an immersive training and networking opportunity. These training supplement a menu of NYSDA programs that consists of a Backup Center, providing relief for overextended defense lawyers, and consultant work for New York State. 


Everett Pelzman