County Commission Declines To Approve New Court Cost To Aid Public Defender's Office

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The County Commission on Wednesday declined to approve an additional court cost to aid the budget of the public defender's office.

Commissioner Chip Baker made the motion to approve, but he did not get a second.

It would have taken a two-thirds majority for approval.

Public Defender Steve Smith had asked the Commission to approve a new $12.50 court fee in order to provide more funding for his office.

He said the state earlier approved the fee and 53 other counties are taking advantage of it.

Mr. Smith said his office has already lost $400,000 in state funding due to state budget woes. He said public defender offices across the state may be cut by as much as $6 million.

He stated, "I see cuts coming down the road. They may be catastrophic."

He said his office has already instituted some cuts. "We are taking out the trash and cleaning the bathrooms."

Mr. Smith said he fears that continued budget cuts could cause him to have to lay off some lawyers. He said since he has been the public defender the number of lawyers has increased from 13 to 21.

He said he did not know how much money the new fee would bring in, but he said it might be enough to save the job of a lawyer.

 



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