Serving Justice to the Less Fortunate

The Office of the Appellate Defender is a non-profit law firm in New York that provides legal representation and advice to convicted felonies who believe they are not guilty. The OAD serves convicted felonies who hail from both the Bronx and Manhattan. The OAD has the statistics to prove that 10 to 15 percent of the time the convicted felonies have been proven to be wrongly convicted once the appeals have been heard at the New York State Supreme Court. This could also mean that the terms of their sentence have been adjusted if they were sentenced to too harsh of prison terms.

One aspect of the OAD is the VAD program, which stands for the Volunteer Appellate Defender Program. The program gives associates at top New York City law firms the chance to help trained OAD attorneys represent the defendants who are up for felony criminal appeals in the Appellate Division. This VAD program is only offered to associates at law firms and not attorneys since the OAD already has trained and specialized attorneys working on the convicted felonies cases.

The VAD program has several aspects to it some of which include: extensive training, editing the brief, prepping the oral argument, formal training sessions on brief writing and criminal law. The program is unique in the sense that the associates will be assisting with a hands on case concerning criminal law and practice in the field, which is irreplaceable.

The OAD also offers an NYU Clinic program each semester. The program is unique in that each semester eight second and third year NYU students will work to represent an OAD client as well in the Criminal Appellate Defender Clinic. During this time the students work with the client by attending a weekly seminar where they learn issues related to the New York procedure regarding law and criminal law in general. In this weekly seminar they will also go through various simulated scenarios of either interviewing the client initially, to working on the client’s oral argument for the panel of appellate court judges. At the end of the semester, the student will file a brief under the Appellate Division in the First Department. The student also has the option of attending the case and presenting an oral argument when the case is scheduled at the New York State Supreme Court.

Sean Hecker is the chairman of the board of the OAD and works alongside other board members to constantly improve the OAD and have it function to its fullest ability.