AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After a recent report revealing some problems with the Potter County court system, a local attorney is forming a justice group to inform the public about the issues and trying to push for the establishment of a public defender system.

“The primary purpose of this group that we set up, the Panhandle Justice Project, is to educate people about what’s really going on down in that courthouse,” Jeff Blackburn, attorney and founder of the project said.

Blackburn explains the group is forming in part, because of the recent report by the Sixth Amendment Center, which revealed 74% of misdemeanor defendants make it through the Potter County court system without ever speaking to a lawyer. Blackburn and his associate, Ryan Brown, also did a study on the misdemeanor system in our county back in 2012.

“They are being run through that system without ever even being given a chance to have the charges against them tested. I think there are a lot of innocent people whose lives are being wrecked, who get put in jail, and then get told, ‘Oh you want out of jail? Plead guilty,'” Blackburn said.

Potter County Attorney Scott Brumley said the county is aware of the problem, and is currently trying to evaluate all possible solutions.

“There are continuing efforts to try to figure out what we’re going to do, we just haven’t landed on a particular solution yet, ” Brumley said.

But Blackburn said the solution is right in front of them. “Indigent defense is a problem you can solve, and the way you solve it is you create a public defender system,” he added.

Brumley said establishing a Public Defender’s Office in Potter County would be more difficult than it seems, especially when it comes to funding.

But Blackburn said the county recently turned down a grant offered by the state, he said which would’ve helped with that.

“They were offered 80 percent of the operating expenses by the state,” Blackburn said.

But Brumley said it’s more complicated than that. “There are more issues beyond the fact that they offered money. That money came with a lot of strings that I think a lot of judges and the other significant stakeholders found unattractive, a lot of conditions on that grant,” he explained.

Brumley said that a Public Defender’s Office is on the table, but a decision will not be made for a while.

Blackburn said the lack of action is frustrating, especially since he said the county knew about these issues long before the report came out.