Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Dorchester County handed off the issue of a municipal court-level public defender to Summerville last week, leaving town officials with the question of whether to provide an attorney to indigent defendants.
Town Councilman Walter Bailey said the public safety committee would probably discuss the issue again.
Town officials had agreed it would be a good idea to have a public defender for those cases that carry the possibility of jail time, but they wanted the county to cover the costs.
County Council, however, voted against funding a town public defender.
The town significantly reduces the burden on the magistrate court by convening a municipal court, Bailey said, something that municipalities aren’t required to do.
Counties, on the other hand, are required to fund and operate courts, he said.
“We ask for so little and we get nothing,” he said.
County officials, however, believe the town should bear the costs because it’s choosing to have a court.
Councilman Bill McIntosh said he’d still like an estimate of how much a public defender would cost, since the position would be part-time at best.