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News & Press: Montana News

Legislative panel recommends cabinet-level public defende post

Tuesday, September 13, 2016  
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A panel of lawmakers and lawyers forwarded the Montana Legislature a set of bills on Monday that would reorganize the Office of the State Public Defender by creating a cabinet-level director to oversee the agency.

The Task Force on State Public Defender Operations, created by the state Legislature to review the agency that represents poor criminal defendants, recommended removing agency oversight from the Public Defender Commission and giving it to the governor, the Associated Press reports.

The change, if approved by the Montana Legislature when it meets in January, would amount to creating the 17th department of state government. The state constitution allows up to 20 departments.

District Judge James Haynes, the task force member who suggested the change, said a director would have the authority to take charge and train stronger trial and appellate attorneys. The governor would pick a director from three nominees chosen by the Public Defender Commission, which would become an advisory panel.