I’m not sure exactly what this entails, but it’s good to see progress.
Harris County plans to launch a limited public defender office in October if it receives a $4.4 million state grant.
The office would start with 30 people defending the indigent on appeals of felony cases and in misdemeanor cases with mentally ill defendants.
If approved, the state money would cover the cost of the office for the first year and a decreasing share of the costs the following three years. At the same time, the public defender office would expand to take on adult felony defendants and juvenile defendants on its way to becoming a full-service in-house defense firm for local criminal court cases.
Currently, judges appoint lawyers for indigient defendants from a randomly generated list. The county spent $33.8 million last year on court-appointed defense.
The proposed public defender office would not replace the current system, but result in a hybrid, said Caprice Cosper, director of Harris County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
See here, here, and here for some background. I don’t know what state funds are being applied for or what the criteria are for getting them, but I presume the ducks will be in order. There’s an item on tomorrow’s Commissioners Court agenda to deal with it. As you know, I think a public defender’s office is a good idea, and I’m glad to see progress being made on implementing it.