On Tuesday, October 20, the Ulster County Legislature passed a resolution (21-1) appointing Ruth Boyer as the county’s public defender.
County Executive Pat Ryan announced the nomination last month, saying he was “excited and proud to announce the appointment of Ruth Boyer to be our new Ulster County Public Defender.” The nomination followed a previous nomination of attorney Laura Sheeley, whom the legislature did not confirm, citing a lack of criminal law and courtroom experience.
Boyer has spent 15 years as an assistant and senior assistant public defender in Ulster and Dutchess counties. More recently, she served as principal law clerk in the State Supreme Court.
She is a graduate of the City University of New York Law School and former editor-in-chief of the CUNY Law Review. The Ulster County Bar Association gave her its highest possible rating, labeling her as “Highly Qualified.”
“I am thankful to County Executive Ryan for his consideration and for nominating me as the Ulster County Public Defender,” Ruth Boyer said in a press release. “I have dedicated my career to public service and the law and look forward to using my experience, together with the experience and dedication of the attorneys and support staff in the office, to provide the highest quality legal representation to all clients of the Ulster County Public Defender’s Office.”
The lone nay vote on the appointment came from Legislator Mary Beth Maio, who cited Boyer’s support for bail reform.
“There are very specific cases this year that show that bail reform is not only disturbing by nature but dangerous – dangerous to the victim, dangerous to law enforcement, dangerous to our community,” said Maio. “While Ms. Boyer may have a qualifying resume, her very clear answer to supporting bail reform unfortunately leaves me unable to support her appointment.”
Legislator Jonathan Heppner responded, “to vote no against a qualified candidate for a public defender, I don’t think [bail reform] is a related issue.”
In support of the appointment, Legislator Eve Walter said, “I think this appointment is one of the most important ones I could make as a legislator who is very committed to criminal justice, with the emphasis on the word justice.”
Other local attorneys, such as Kingston Attorney Eli Basch, also backed the appointment.
“I would like to compliment the County Executive, Pat Ryan, on his selection of Ruth Boyer as Public Defender as Ruth’s vast and meaningful experience representing the interests of indigent clients in both Family and Criminal Court is the ideal foundation for her service as Public Defender,” said Basch, who is also a member of the Bar Association’s Public Defender Screening Committee, in a press release. “Her career has been dedicated to serving the interests of the disadvantaged and she has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and clients and will continue to do so as Public Defender of Ulster County.”
The position previously was held by Andrew Kossover, who resigned or was let go (accounts differ) in February after the county executive reported that an investigation found the public defender’s office failed to seek $2.5 million in reimbursements from the state over a period of several years.