Albany County Executive Dan McCoy has appointed Judge Stephen Herrick to serve as Albany County Public Defender.
McCoy addressed reporters Monday as he made the appointment: "I had to find the right person. I had to find the person that really has the passion, that really understands what's going on. Maybe he's been on the other side of the bench, but really sees what goes on in the courtroom. And, it was a no-brainer, when I knew Judge Herrick would be retiring at the end of this year. And we said 'You know what? That's the person I want for the job!"
Herrick has been a judge since 1995 and has served as a County Court Judge since 2002. The Albany Law School grad is no stranger to the Public Defender's office: Herrick began his law career as an Assistant County Public Defender. "In January of 1976, when many of you were not yet here, I left the public defender's office as a then-young felony trial attorney, and I left very reluctantly, to take a job as Albany City School District attorney. The pay was twice as much. The benefits were better. But I did not want to leave. I had a mortgage. Just bought a house. Wanting to start a family at that time. And I couldn't afford to stay in the public defender's office. And this is a situation that exists today. I never thought that I would have an opportunity to once again be a part of the Albany public defender's office. Somehow, the stars have aligned."
With Herrick’s serendipitous appointment, Acting Public Defender Terry Kindlon — who recently retired from his high-profile private practice — will return to his role as Senior Counsel and Director of Training for the county. It is expected that Judge Herrick and Kindlon will work collaboratively on upgrading and modernizing the Public Defender’s Office. Herrick hopes to modernize and detail the responsibilities of each of the assistant public defenders, increase their salaries and do whatever it takes to improve the process of providing legal representation to those that truly need it.
McCoy believes attorneys with the public defender's office representing indigent defendants should have access to the same resources as prosecuting attorneys from D.A. David Soares' office, so they can properly serve people appearing in court. "Our district attorney does a great job, and he's a great district attorney. But when you have all the resources on one side of the house, and you don't have all the tools on the other, the outcomes can be different. So we wanna make sure that that scale is even."
McCoy says Herrick's reputation speaks for itself: the judge is well known throughout the county for his work with the Albany County Drug Court, a program that provides services and treatment options for offenders charged with nonviolent drug crimes.
McCoy notes Herrick's impressive skill set comes at a savings to the county: "Here's the most beautiful thing about hiring somebody that's retired. We don't have to pay for health care and we don't have to pay for New York State retirement. So the salary is set at 115, roughly, in that area."
The county legislature is expected to confirm Herrick's appointment October 10th.