The Chemung County Legislature has egg on its face with the way it has treated Public Defender Nancy Eraca-Cornish. Contrary to the stated version of what happened, I know from talking to people and Nancy that she was given two weeks' notice to clear out of her office. Nancy is an outstanding trial attorney and an exemplary hard-working public defender. She is also president of the Chemung County Bar Association.
This treatment was a slap in the face to the entire county bar association. No one I know who is a member of the trial bar was consulted about the way she was treated or about the change in the public defender's office. This crazy action leaves the accused in criminal cases and the advocates for the poor and indigent in the hands of "assigned counsel" whenever there is a conflict with the public defender's office. This was the old way, which clearly did not work.
It is a sad day for Chemung County that Eraca-Cornish was so shabbily treated, which impacts other dedicated and experienced trial lawyers at the public defender's and public advocate's offices. Politics should never interfere with the legal system of equal justice for all. Sadly, apparently, that is no longer the case in Chemung County.
Philip C. Learned
Past president, Chemung County Bar Association