It’s eight in the morning and Kevin Stadlemaier is walking into the Legal Aid Bureau. He’s beginning another lengthy shift as the chief attorney for the criminal defense unit.
“It’s difficult work.”
Stadlemaier says that’s because of the types of cases they’re defending and the sheer number of them. He estimates his office handles between 12,500 and 14,000 each year, representing people who cannot afford to retain a private attorney.
“You’re left with this enormous gap between people who can never afford to pay counsel and the need to have their cases defended.”
Each criminal defense attorney in the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo is handling between 650 and 700 cases annually.
“You look at these people who have no one else in their corner, no one else supporting them and it is extraordinarily satisfying to solve their problems.”
The chief attorney is encouraged by the state public defense reform, feeling it’ll help the lawyers in his office solve even more problems. This new legislation, which received bipartisan support, will be phased in over five years and will change public defending as it’ll require the state to cover proper training, supervision, and support staff for attorney as well as enhance the access they have to resources. Additionally, it’ll cap the number of cases public defenders can pick up each year; they’ll be limited to 300 misdemeanors or violations and 100 felony offenses.
Stadlemaier feels this new legislation will help his attorney find the best defense for their clients.
“There have been cases, just by virtue of the amount of cases and the time we have, that we haven’t been able to explore ever avenue of defense.”
And while the resources and time might be limited now, the chief attorney believes the lawyers in the Legal Aid Bureau are doing the best they can for the people of Buffalo.
“At the end of the day, you do it because you’re committed to this work; you’re committed to justice.”