Westmoreland County commissioners say supplemental lawyer program a success
Court-appointed lawyers hired to supplement the public defender's office representing indigent clients saved county taxpayers more than $70,000 last year.
The program, enacted last year, replaced a system in which judges appointed private lawyers and paid them hourly wages to handle cases that public defenders could not take because of conflicts of interest.
As part of the new system, the county hired 10 lawyers who handled 38 cases apiece. The lawyers were paid a $20,000 annual salary without benefits.
“It's reflecting the cost savings we thought it would,” said court administrator Paul Kuntz.
On Thursday, county commissioners unanimously renewed the conflict counsel program and rehired nine of the lawyers chosen last year to serve as defense attorneys. A 10th was hired to replace an attorney who resigned from the program.
Kuntz said it cost taxpayers more than $368,000 in 2011 and $278,000 in 2012 for court-appointed lawyers. Last year, the bill for the conflict-counsel team was about $205,000.
Lawyers were assigned 38 cases, but several were hired to defend a few additional clients at an hourly rate.
The county added lawyers at a $45 hourly rate to represent clients in homicide trials and for appeals.
“The only issue we might consider is adding compensation if cases go to trial,” Kuntz said.
This year, lawyers will receive no added pay for trials.
Commissioners said the program has met its goal to save money.
“I'm satisfied it's working,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- Endowment of $3.49B makes University of Pittsburgh 25th richest in U.S.
- Three injured in two-vehicle accident on Arona Road in Hempfield
- Westmoreland County settles with fired public defender
- Rostraver Democrat aims for 1 of 3 open spots on Westmoreland County bench
- Suspect in West Newton burglary sought, alleged accomplice arrested
- Braddock man held for trial in Jeannette assault, robbery
- Woman pays $178 fine for Westmoreland courthouse conduct
- New Alexandria tree trimmer pleads guilty to fraud
- IRS scam snares another Westmoreland County resident
- Rustic Ridge Mine permit request criticized
- Krieger to seek Westmoreland County Common Pleas judgeship