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Court hasn't chosen new state public defender

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State Public Defender Susan Carpenter retires Tuesday after nearly three decades in that position, and no decision has been made as to who will succeed her.

While a five-person committee continues reviewing and interviewing applicants to succeed Carpenter, Indiana Supreme Court Public Information Officer Kathryn Dolan said the court has not decided whether it will name someone in the interim.

That means the Indiana State Public Defender’s Office will be without a clear administrative leader for the first time in 30 years, since Carpenter took that role in October 1981.

“The court is considering how to proceed and is being thoughtful and careful in deciding what happens next,” Dolan said. “The office moves forward regardless, it’s not going to come to a halt.”

The court is taking a different approach than it has with other court agencies and offices that have recently found themselves temporarily without a leader. The court named interim leaders for the Indiana Board of Law Examiners and Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission when those administrative positions were vacated. The second-in-command at the Disciplinary Commission took over as executive sectary for about five months until the court named G. Michael Witte to the position in May 2010, and Dave Remondini in the Division of State Court Administration has been the interim BLE director for about six months after Linda Loepker left in early December. A search remains ongoing, with more than 90 people applying for that post.

The chief state deputy public defender could take over that office’s administrative role, but Carpenter said it would be up to the court to decide whether that would happen or if it would make an interim appointment. She said she understands the search is moving along quickly.

Carpenter announced her retirement Feb. 16, and applications for that position were due April 10. A five-person panel was named in April to review those applications and recommend an unspecified number of finalists to the Supreme Court for consideration.

Dolan said the panel continues to review applications and interview applicants. The panel is chaired by Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck. Other members are Valparaiso University School of Law professor Derrick Carter, Terre Haute defense attorney Jessie Cook, former Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco, and Indianapolis attorney Jimmie McMillian. McMillian also chairs the board of directors of the Marion County Public Defender Agency.

Dolan said no deadline currently exists for the justices to make a decision.

The state public defender is the administrative head of a 67-person office with about 1,150 ongoing cases, including two capital cases.
 

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