Power County takes early steps to create public defender’s office

by Daniel Moore

Press Staff Writer

Power County is seeking ways to hire its own public defender. Currently, the public defender is issued a contract from the county and paid a flat fee regardless of how many clients are assisted—in some cases resulting in hurried and inadequate representation, said the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit last year.

The new process requires a new mindset, said Power County Commissioner Ron Funk in a meeting on Monday, June 27. Instead of only figuring a budget line item for public defenders, the commissioners will need an awareness of the number and type of cases they handle, he said.

The state, in working to improve public defense, created a public defense commission and is now giving grants to counties to cover the additional costs of more public defense. Power County can receive $25,000 for creating an office, and then split another $25,000 with another county if the counties find out how to share a public defender.

Power County is in early talks with Oneida County to see if it is possible to share a public defender. Oneida County lies to the south of Power County. Other southern Idaho counties, like Bear Lake and Franklin, are also interested in joining with Oneida.

Power County’s current public defender, Bob Eldredge, is also Oneida County’s public defender. …

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