Ulster public defender qualifications questioned by lawmakers

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KINGSTON – Ulster County Legislature Chairman David Donaldson is questioning if Public Defender designee Lauren Sheeley has the right qualifications for the job.

Sheeley, who has been first assistant county attorney since September 2019 and previously worked as the attorney in charge of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, has no criminal defense experience, Donaldson noted during Tuesday evening’s Ways and Means Committee meeting on her confirmation.

While that may be the case, Sheeley told lawmakers on a ZOOM-cast session that she does have what it takes to run the office of public defender.

Lauren Sheeley

“I have spent the past 10 years of my career and my life fighting for the rights of underserved and indigent people and communities,” she said. “From physically shielding my clients from the opposition in open court to advocating for justice for the LGBTQ+ community, and to working with immigrant children who have fled their home countries under the fear or threat of violence, I have devoted my career to serving the neediest client population.”

Legislator Kenneth Ronk stood up for Sheeley. “I have been in the legislature for the entirety of the charter and I don’t ever remember somebody casting doubt on the former public defender’s qualifications in family law or overseeing attorneys that work in family court,” he said. “You have an office that has a broad brush of cases and I don’t believe that the former public defender had experience in family court.”