Gregg County Commissioners have postponed the extension of the county’s lawyer contracts for a needy defense as they consider whether changes are needed in the agreements.
Gregg, like other counties across the state and nation, contracts multiple lawyers annually to improve his defense. Gregg County has contracts with four attorneys: Zachary Austin, Edward Choy, Barrett Hunt, and Molly Larison. The four lawyers represent defendants who cannot hire a lawyer.
Contracts for the four attorneys show that each can handle a maximum of 450 cases per year at a total cost of $ 72,000 per year or $ 6,000 per month.
The district’s contracts with the lawyers were due for renewal on Monday without any proposal for amendment. Pct. 2 Commissioner Darryl Primo questioned that the contracts do not specify how much time lawyers should spend on cases, nor how many cases lawyers should handle per month.
Primo pointed out that one attorney can handle 50 cases a month while another attorney monitors 10 cases but receives the same pay.
“I wonder if there should be a sliding scale,” he said.
The maximum total number of 450 cases per year averages 30 to 40 cases per month. Primo noted, however, that the contracts do not provide a minimum number of cases each lawyer should represent.
In the past 16 months, more than 1,600 cases have passed through Gregg County’s judicial system, and only four have come to trial, according to Primo. He said the data was compiled from the district clerk’s records.
“Their contract requires them to diligently provide legal service to their clients,” Primo said.
The commissioner asked if needy defendants got a fair shock after presenting the data he says shows defendants mostly filing pleas but not going to court.
“Everyone has a right to fair justice,” he said.
Primo said he wanted to hear from Supreme Court Justice No. 1 Justice Kent Phillips on the matter. Phillips led the court hearings on Monday morning. The commissioners held a discussion of the treaties before their next meeting so that Phillips could provide input.
In another deal on Monday, commissioners appointed Nancy Manning as records management officer, an unelected position in the county. She will succeed David Davis, who retired on October 31st.
The commissioners also approved a funding agreement to provide $ 18,000 to East Texas Child Advocates, which will provide services to abused and neglected children in the county. The county also approved a funding agreement to provide $ 10,000 to the Greater Longview United Way, which acts as a bridge between residents in need of health or personal care and the organizations that provide those services.