Judges in Montgomery County are trying to establish a public defender office, but the lawyers currently serving in that capacity say it may be too costly.
The judges presented the proposal amid an overload of cases that require court-assigned attorneys. The county currently contracts private lawyers to fill those positions.
Justin Froedge is one of the county’s acting public defenders. He says a cheaper alternative may be to keep the existing system in place and give contracted lawyers a pay bump.
“Ultimately, our opinion is that we want to keep the cost down for the county and we want to continue to employ, or to continue to give these contracts to local attorneys that are going to be sticking around,” he says.
Froedge says it’d also avoid “unnecessary” bureaucracy, and he fears lawyers recruited from elsewhere aren’t as likely to stay long-term.
“The turnover in an office like that would be pretty high -- because we would be getting people new out of law school, fresh out of law school, coming to get a job kind of as a placeholder before they got their dream job -- would be my guess,” he says.
Froedge says the judges and public defenders are both looking for a long-term solution to the county’s problem of large caseloads.
It’s now up to the county council to decide which option would work best.