Governor Little recently held a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 236, capping off a two-session process to transition from a county-based public defense system to a state-based public defense system. While House Bill 236 was actually signed in March, the Governor wanted to recognize the efforts of county officials and public defenders in coming together to pass legislation that is hoped will provide more uniform indigent public defense around the state. While House Bill 735 (2022) established a dedicated funding source for public defense and House Bill 236 (2023) transitions indigent public defense responsibilities away from counties, more work is required to ensure an orderly transition to the new state-based, judicial district public defense system.
First on the agenda will be the appointment of the first-ever state public defender. Prior to appointing the state public defender, Governor Little will appoint a committee with a representative from each of the state’s seven judicial districts. The committee will be tasked with recruiting and recommending a list of three to five criminal defense attorneys to the governor from which the governor will select the state public defender. Once appointed, the new state public defender will begin organizing the state public defender’s office and appointing a public defense transition team.
The transition team will be appointed later this summer to lay the groundwork for the state system to take over public defense on October 1, 2023. The transition team will be heavily influenced by defense attorneys from around the state, including one defense attorney from each judicial district, two county commissioners, and the soon-to-be appointed state public defender. The transition team will need to immediately get to work to be prepared for the handoff.
Below is a list of IAC’s major accomplishments this past session:
IAC will also be responsible for recommending a list of names to the state public defender for appointment to the transition team. If you are interested in being considered for appointment to the transition team, please contact Seth Grigg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he will forward your name on to the Governor’s Office.
See and download photos from the ceremonial signing on our Flickr account.