Potter County moving forward with a new public defender system

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) —  The public defender system is changing in Potter County.

Potter County Commissioners are moving forward with a new public defender system called “Mac.”
The commissioners are requesting a grant to help offset the cost of taking on the new system.

This change is a response to a 200-page report from the Sixth Amendment Center.

MAC stands for “Managed Approved Counsel” and the commissioners said it is a hybrid of a public defender unit. A public defender is someone who is appointed a lawyer by the court if they can’t afford one on their own.

Also at the commissioner’s meeting, a grant was requested to help offset taking on this new system.
Potter County Commissioner, Precinct Two Mercy Murguia said they have a budget of $1.7 million dollars, and they anticipate taking on the full cost of the program by year three which they will start saving for now.

“So we think we will be eligible for that grant, that will offset for years one to three and then around year three and a half to four is when we expect to feel the heavy lift on the budget,” said Commissioner Murguia.

Alphonso Vaughn, Potter County Commissioner, Precinct Four said he’s hopeful this system is a step up from where they are at.

“It’s not the best, but it is certainly a lot better than what we have and we are moving towards a system of equitable representation,” said Commissioner Vaughn.

But some are against this system. Local attorney, Ryan Brown said this new system will not work and said it may be worse than the current system.

“The Managed Assigned Counsel system is a system where lawyers who don’t benefit from the court-appointed system, who don’t rely on the court appoints manage and oversee lawyers that take the court appoints. In some city it works, Lubbock has one and it’s worked reasonably well, but it will not work here,” said Brown.

Brown said 85% people cannot afford a lawyer and must rely on a public defender.

Brown said nothing matters more in the criminal justice system than a good indigent defense because how their cases are handled reflect down on everything else.

This new system will include an oversight board that Commissioner Murguia said will be where the rubber meets the road. She also added that today’s passing of the MAC was a historic day for Potter County and with its passing is taking steps in the right direction.


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