On Tuesday, the Legislature unanimously passed HB 262, introduced by Rep. Lindsey Holmes, which gives the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) and the Public Defender Agency (PD) latitude in contracting expert witnesses and other services to defend people who don’t have enough money to hire a private lawyer.
As it stands, when securing certain services like expert witnesses or contract lawyers, OPA and PD are required to put in a formal request for procurement. The Department of Law, which is the prosecutor, doesn’t have to, which can give the already powerful DOL an advantage. Also, the bill ensures that public defenders don’t have to get permission from the DOL to contract services.
Holmes has been mightily criticized for switching from Democrat to Republican in 2013. But it’s hard for a member of the minority to get a bill of any significance passed. So although her switch might have hurt the Democratic Party, in this case anyway, it appears to have been good for the public.
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