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Lawmakers: Idaho Needs Public Defense Commission

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Members of a legislative committee charged with fixing Idaho's public defense system say they are leaning toward creating a state commission to figure out some of the specific nuts and bolts of public defender contracts, data collection and oversight.

But co-chair Sen. Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) said in the meantime, he'd like to see most counties put an end to using part-time contractors to represent poor defendants.

The Legislature appointed the Interim Committee on Public Defense earlier this year after hearing dire warnings from criminal justice professionals who cautioned that Idaho's current system is unconstitutional.

Currently, counties choose their own approach to public defense. Some contract with the lowest-bidder while others have an established public defender office.

The interim committee is expected to meet in January to finalize its recommendations.


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