Public defenders take on Recorder’s Court duties

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - New changes took effect in Recorder's Court in Columbus on Wednesday morning.

The city's government has requested the Chattahoochee Circuit Public Defender's office to handle more cases.

For reference, Recorder's Court hears anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 cases a year.

By amending the contract already in place, Columbus city government will now pay more than $135,000 for the Public Defender's office to add two new full-time attorneys, one part-time attorney, and one investigator in Recorder's Court.

Steve Craft, assistant chief public defender for the office, said he's aware taxpayers may not like this money spent on representing those accused of crimes, but it may benefit the city in the long run.

"Part of the process, as we become very efficient over there," Craft said. "It will affect jail costs and revenue factors for the city. Hopefully, all those things result in an offset where the city really doesn't experience a cost increase, but may see cost savings."

The savings Craft referenced would include having more attorneys who could get their clients out on probation in recorders court, instead of spending more time at the Muscogee County Jail.

Columbus City Attorney Clifton Fay says this is just one part of a long-term plan Columbus City Council has to potentially restructure Recorder's Court.

"It's been a critical shortage that council's been looking at from a budget standpoint," Fay said. "They're going to look at the whole structure, as we go through the end of the fiscal year, and see if this works well and as efficient."

In addition to this new assignment to Recorder's Court, the public defender's office already handles cases in both superior court and state court within the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit - a total of six counties, including Muscogee, Harris and Taylor counties.

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