Potter County Commissioners’ Court approves of new public defense program

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:12 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The Potter County Commissioners’ Court approved the Potter/Armstrong indigent defense plan on Monday after seeing a decline in qualified attorneys willing to counsel people with low-income.

It will be a department serving as two offices for public defenders and management of assigning counsel.

The goal is to attract new attorneys to Amarillo while giving the accused a fair chance in court.

“Those case loads can be mitigated so that your attorneys do have sufficient amount of time to do due justice to each one of their clients they’re representing,” said John Kiehl, regional services director of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.

Funding for this program came from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission and local tax revenue.

The office will prioritize felony cases since the amount in both counties used to overwhelmed the court system.

Doing this will increase the efficiency for attorneys.

“By lowering high case loads attorneys will be better able to better represent indigent defendants in Potter County,” said Jackson Latimer, civil division chief of the Potter County Attorney’s Office.

The program will hire at least three full time assistant public defenders to serve both counties.

It will also have a two year paid fellowship program to mentor new attorneys in practicing law.

The goal behind this is to encourage fellows to stay filling the void of working attorneys and to support our economy.

“They’ll each be opening an office, if the plan follow through as planned, and hiring staff to run that office as well too,” said Kiehl.

Funding for the program will be given October first and the program will be located in the Santa Fe building in downtown Amarillo.

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