Westmoreland County looks to hire up to 5 lawyers
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Westmoreland County is looking for a few defense lawyers.
The county later this month will open a conflict counsel office to represent indigent defendants whose cases cannot be handled by the Public Defender's Office.
Court officials said Monday that up to five lawyers will be hired to each defend 75 criminal cases this year.
The private lawyers will be paid $40,000, although they won't be considered county employees and won't receive benefits. They will not handle homicide cases, in which judges will still appoint defense attorneys on a case-by-case basis.
“Hopefully, it will save the county some money, but only time will tell,” said President Judge Gary Caruso.
Most indigent defendants are represented by the county's 10 public defenders, who handle about 3,000 cases a year.
In cases where there is a conflict of interest, such as prosecutions involving multiple defendants, judges appoint private lawyers. Those attorneys earn $45 an hour.
Court Administrator Paul Kuntz said the new system, which operates in 25 counties, is anticipated to streamline criminal court cases.
The savings the county will realize is still in question, though.
Last year, private lawyers appointed by judges were paid a total of $305,000. That figure does not include bills still to be submitted for work at the end of the year.
In 2011, judges appointed more than 50 private lawyers to represent about 330 defendants. The county paid $368,000 for those lawyers.
Figures for the previous two years include costs to represent poor defendants accused of homicide.
Under the new system, the county will pay out a minimum of $200,000 for the conflict counsel office.
“We don't know what the benefits will be. We are hoping it will ease the administration and save the county some money,” Kuntz said.
Court-appointed attorneys now must have each hourly bill approved by a judge. That will no longer be necessary for the conflict counsel, who will be paid a regular monthly salary.
The county has received five applications for the jobs and more are being solicited.
The judges are expected to hire the lawyers by mid-January, Kuntz said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- North Versailles, Murrysville families still waiting for report on 2011 chopper crash that killed couple
- Blaze damages Derry Twp. garage, apartment
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- Scottdale to reconsider use of complaint forms
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- Graziani hired away from Latrobe as Penn Township’s manager
- Police see no sign Franklin Regional stabbing suspect was bullied
- Murrysville woman sues Giant Eagle over burns
- St. Vincent student killed in ‘unfortunate accident’ in Erie