Your NPR news source

Number of Public Defenders in Lake County, Indiana, Could Get Cut

SHARE Number of Public Defenders in Lake County, Indiana, Could Get Cut

A budget crunch is forcing officials in one Northwest Indiana county to look at cutting back the number of lawyers who serve the poor.

A committee that’s analyzed Lake County, Indiana’s, finances wants to cut the number of part-time public defenders from 27 to six. These lawyers represent indigent defendants in minor crimes. The committee says that could save nearly $700,000.

Fran DuPey, a Hammond Democrat who’s running for re-election to the county board of commissioners, endorses the plan to help shore up a $15 million budget shortfall for 2009. Her Republican opponent for the seat is Duane Dedelow Jr., a former mayor of Hammond.

He says he’s worried the cuts could hurt those who need legal services the most.

DEDELOW: Just because you can’t afford good legal counsel doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be provided it by the county.

Some in the county say the poor would not be denied legal representation if the cuts go through, because their cases would be handled by full-time public defenders.

The Latest