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Public defenders could see change in St. Joseph County

January 1, 2007
The public defender system in St. Joseph County could be up for an overhaul as soon as July.

County officials have given a favorable recommendation to ordinances revamping the system, action that comes on the heels of a presentation by Circuit Judge Michael Gotsch earlier this week. If the county council approves the measures at its June 12 meeting, the changes would take effect for the second half of the year.

Under the proposal, the county could hire 10 more public defenders, which Judge Gotsch says are needed to keep up with increasing caseloads that are at higher levels than the state standard allows.

The measures would also establish a chief deputy with administrative and court duties, and increase the pay and duties of the chief public defender who would also gain the power to manage, hire, and fire the counsel representing indigent criminal defendants. It would also permit a new salary structure to increase pay for senior public defenders and set a lower starting salary for new defenders.
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