The Lubbock-based office for the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases recently presented a substantial refund to the counties it serves in the 7th and 9th Administrative Judicial Regions.
Precinct 1 Lubbock County Commissioner Bill McCay says the public defender office presented a check for $408,334 to 77 counties at the Texas Association of Counties judicial education session held March 22 in Lubbock. “We are getting back $64,801,” McCay says, referring to Lubbock County’s share of the refund.
David Slayton, Lubbock County’s director of court administration, says each participating county in the two judicial regions is receiving 45 percent of its 2012 contribution to the public defender’s office as a refund.
Jack Stoffregen, the regional office’s chief public defender, says the refunds are due to the hard work and dedication of his staff since the office opened on Jan. 1, 2008. Stoffregen says he stresses to his staff the need to be effective, efficient and ethical. “We’ve been effective, and we’ve been ethical.” Stoffregen says. “This just highlights that we’ve been efficient as well.”
McCay says the efficient management allowed the office to build a fund balance since it opened, which made the refund possible. The office kept about $495,000 in its reserve fund to cover operations for six months and returned the rest, McCay says. He says the office not only refunded money to the counties but also has saved them thousands of dollars by providing representation to indigents in capital cases.
Slayton says capital murder cases are estimated to cost a county between $150,000 and $1 million if the death penalty is sought. The office is estimated to have saved participating counties in the 7th and 9th regions $637,000 in the first two years of its existence, Slayton says.
Elaine Nauert, the program’s office administrator, says the office opened 15 capital cases and closed nine in fiscal year 2012.
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, chairwoman of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, which provided funding for the regional office, writes in a statement, “We had high hopes from this program when we funded it in 2007. It has met and exceeded our expectations so far.”
Slayton says that 77 of the 85 counties in the 7th and 9th judicial regions opted to participate in the program, which has expanded to serve an additional 107 counties in other regions.
Stoffregen says the program currently has offices in Lubbock, Midland, Amarillo, Uvalde, Kingsville and Burnet and expects to have an office in Angleton soon.
Slayton says the office will continue expanding this year and is expected to serve 240 of the 254 counties in Texas by October.
-- Mary Alice Robbins