Westmoreland taps 10 lawyers to supplement public defender
Westmoreland County has named 10 lawyers to act as defense attorneys in criminal court cases involving indigent defendants.
The lawyers are part of a newly enacted system implemented to supplement the public defender's office in cases where there is a conflict of interest that would prevent those attorneys from representing clients.
“The court is looking forward to using conflict counsel because of possible cost savings and efficiencies,” said Court Administrator Paul Kuntz.
County commissioners signed off on the pilot project last month and will formally approve employment contracts with the lawyers on Feb. 14.
Kuntz said the lawyers hired are: Tim Andrews, Brian Aston, Tim Dawson, Michael DeMatt, Patricia Elliott, James Fox, Amy Keim, David Regoli, Jim Robinson and Valerie Veltri.
All have worked as court-appointed lawyers in criminal cases.
Under terms of their contracts, each lawyer will be assigned 38 cases and earn $20,000. They will serve as private contractors, not county employees, and will receive no public benefits.
In 2012, the county paid more than $305,000 for court-appointed lawyers. The conflict counsel system will pay out a minimum $200,000 to the lawyers, although additional funds will be needed to pay lawyers who are appointed to represent murder defendants.
Specifics of how the program will be administered are still being worked out by the four criminal court judges, Kuntz said.
Attorneys could be assigned to cases on a rotating basis or based on geographical regions.
The conflict counsel system is slated to begin on March 1.
“We're viewing this as a pilot program and we'll consider using it in family court cases in the future,” Kuntz said.
Court officials originally planned to hire five lawyers to each handle up to 75 cases and earn $40,000 apiece.
Due to the strong response from interested lawyers — 34 applied — judges decided to revise the original plans.
For decades, each criminal judge appointed lawyers for indigent defendants on a case-by-case basis when there was a conflict of interest with public defenders.
Those lawyers earned $45 an hour for their work.
About 25 counties throughout Pennsylvania are using a conflict counsel system in criminal cases.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
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.
- Zoning update raises fears in Ligonier Township
- Shenefelt of North Huntingdon accused of road rage altercation in Westmoreland
- Reputed major heroin trafficker in Westmoreland County pleads guilty, gets prison sentence
- Auction nets $20,000 from ill-gotten gain in slaying, theft from Washington County woman
- Event gets new formal name: Shop ’n Save Westmoreland County Airshow, presented by Xcoal Energy & Resources in Latrobe
- $7.6M buyout at Hempfield prison site clouds sale
- Latrobe police to form DUI task force
- Court in the Classroom program provides insight for Norwin High School students
- Sale of former SCI Greensburg prison to advance despite lawmakers’ objections
- Excela center proposal worries residents of Hempfield neighborhood
- Updated Everson directory available at post office