Gary Horton, 2018 Kutak-Dodds Prize Winner

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Gary Horton has a strong commitment to litigation and advocacy on behalf of justice-involved veterans and low-income individuals. Gary’s belief that veterans deserve access to the best possible legal defense, is a belief that resonates throughout his career.

Gary served as a public defender during the first 30 years of his career and as Chief of Public Defender of Genesee County for the last 20 years. He is a founding member and past president of Genesee Veterans Support Network. Realizing that a growing numbers of veterans with service-related mental health illnesses were lost in New York’s criminal justice system, he co-founded the Veterans Defense Program (VDP). VDP serves as a resource center for attorneys serving justice-involved veterans.

Gary recognized that public defense attorneys needed to be educated as to the critical impact of military culture on justice-involved veterans. In response, Gary developed and implemented highly successful programs that have provided a justice and treatment-oriented approach to hundreds of wounded warriors charged with a crime. VDP has assisted 370 veterans and trained 577 public defenders representing veterans in New York State’s criminal and family court systems. In 2016 and 2017, VDP helped veterans to be diverted into treatment and probation, avoiding a maximum total of 518 years of incarceration with a costs savings to the State of up to $31 million.

As a widely recognized advocate for justice-involved veterans, Gary and the VDP staff serve as a backup resource and support program for attorneys, more than 120 county-based public defender offices, legal aid societies and assigned counsel programs, and provide direct representation for individual veterans. Gary was awarded with the first-ever Mental Health-NYS Criminal Justice Award in 2016.

NLADA is proud to recognize Gary’s achievements for the rights of veterans and those who cannot afford legal representation in his state and nationally with the 2018 Kutak-Dodd’s Defender Prize.