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Ellis criticizes county’s public defender proposal

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who authored the bill that allowed Texas counties to create public defender offices, is not pleased with the plan that Harris County currently has to establish one.

Ellis and other critics of the system say it compromises defense of the poor because attorneys must advocate before judges on whom they depend for future employment. Ellis said the arrangement is so morally bankrupt that he has approached legal advocacy groups to ask for help reforming Harris County courts.

“I’ve done my bit of talking to people around the country trying to get them to sue (the county), but it takes tremendous resources,” Ellis said.

[…]

Ellis accused local judges of circumventing the intent of his law by using a system in which each judge can decide his or her own system of providing for indigent defense. He said resistance from judges has resulted in a potentially fatally flawed public defender proposal.

“They’re trying to kill it,” Ellis said.

As we know, the county’s proposal has some flaws and may not get the funding from the state that it needs to get off the ground. I’ve said before that I think the proposal is a good start, but clearly there’s room for improvement. And it would be unacceptable to miss out on getting the grant funds, so one hopes the feedback from the Task Force on Indigent Defense will be taken seriously.

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