By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The only lawyer to submit a proposal to serve as public defender in Hill County Justice Court has been hired for the position.
Hill County will pay Randy Randolph $30,000 to provide legal services to indigent defendants in Justice Court through June 30, 2005.
People accused of committing misdemeanor crimes in Hill County but outside the Havre city limits are prosecuted in Justice Court. By law, the county must provide a lawyer for people unable to afford one if the offense they are charged with carries a possible jail sentence.
The contract also includes a second attorney, Phillip DeFelice of Malta. Under terms of the contract, Randolph will be paid $2,500 a month, and is responsible for paying DeFelice for the work he performs. The two attorneys will likely handle an equal number of cases, Randolph said this morning.
Those cases will consist primarily of misdemeanors, though the contract also calls for the two lawyers to provide preliminary legal counsel to people arrested on felony charges prior to the filing of formal charges in state District Court. Those cases likely will be infrequent because nearly all felony criminal complaints are now being filed directly in District Court, Randolph said.
Under the contract, the county will pay the cost of expert witnesses, laboratory tests and private investigators if they are approved by the justice of the peace. Randolph and DeFelice are required to provide their own office space and equipment, and pay for their own travel expenses.
DeFelice is planning to establish a part-time office in Havre, Randolph said.
The contract also requires that the two lawyers help facilitate a smooth transition of their cases to new attorneys if this year's contract is not renewed. That may call for work after June 30, 2005, without additional compensation, the contract said.
Another requirement in the contract is that Randolph and DeFelice each must have at least $100,000 in malpractice insurance.
The county originally sought bids for the contract in June but none were submitted within the allowed time. Randolph's bid arrived a day late and was not immediately opened.
The Hill County Commission considered rebidding the contract, but decided to open and accept Randolph's bid after it became apparent that he was the only lawyer interested in the position, County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said Monday.
The contract was formerly held by the law firms of Bosch Kuhr Dugdale Martin and Kaze PLLP and Altman and Boucher. That contract, worth $25,000, expired this month.
Neither firm submitted an offer to renew the contract.
Randolph previously was a public defender in state District Court for two years.
Randolph, a Republican, is running against Democratic incumbent Cyndee Peterson for the position of Hill County attorney.
Randolph said that if he is elected in November, he will have to resign as public defender and find another lawyer to fulfill the remainder of the contract.