Lollar and Richard Goemann, director of defender legal services for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, have suggestions for Harris County if it sets up a PD's office.
The problems at the Dallas PD's office "are not unique to Texas," Goemann says. "They are common around the country."
The best way to avoid such political problems is the creation of an independent board to oversee a PD's office and shield it from the governmental body that controls the PD's office budget, he says.
"The idea is to create a diverse body whose allegiance is to the clients of the office," Goemann says.
Lollar says Harris County — Texas' largest — should "have a clear arrangement with the judges that once the PDs are in there, you're going to use them and what cases are they going to get. And there should be an advisory board that stands between the commissioners court and the Public Defender's Office. It could be representatives between the criminal bar and the district judges and the county judges. And it should act as a buffer to politics."
Monday, July 07, 2008
Texas Lawyer: Dallas Public Defender lacked buffer from political winds
Texas Lawyer published a detailed adumbration of the imbroglio surrounding allegedly politicized firings at the Dallas Public Defender's Office beginning with the chief, Brad Lollar. Those interested should go read the whole thing, but especially interesting to me were suggestions offered toward the end about how other counties might structure PD offices to avoid the same problems with meddling county commissioners: