Feathers said the American Bar Association did a survey several years ago that revealed that only two or three states had pro bono appeals assistance.
"We realized we wanted to be in the pioneer (group) that provided free representation. We are a good group of core volunteers."
The release said the cases are screened by a seven-member subcommittee, which then selects a limited number for appeals.
Patnode said that, when the cases are selected, an attorney from a large law firm will usually take it. She said the firms are primarily from New York City and have the ability to put four or five attorneys on one appeal, recognizing that for rural attorneys, doing that would be a challenge.
"This is a ... tremendous sharing program between rural and urban attorneys. It's an opportunity for urban attorneys to connect with rural New York, and it's an opportunity for rural clients to have stellar representation."
Patnode said this type of program has been important to people in rural areas, such as the North Country.
"Many (appeal) cases are not heard because the resources don't go there."
Patnode said the Rural Law Center will continue to work on creating records on appeals, a challenging portion of the process that requires time, resources and a sense of how it should be organized.
"(The Rural Law Center) has been instrumental in creating and expanding this program," Feathers said.
HOPING TO EXPAND
The program is open only to New York's Third Judicial Department, which includes Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties, but Feathers hopes it will expand as the years progress.
"We hope it will be a stepping stone and that the next chapter ... (will be) to expand to other areas of the state."
She said that next year they may expand the program to the state's Fourth Judicial Department, but in the meantime, she knows that each case helped has a far-reaching impact.