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Proposal for Public Defender Office seeks to provide more fair, adequate representation

Proposal for Potter County Public Defender Office seeks to provide more fair, adequate representation. (ABC 7 Amarillo- Jala Washington).

As former president of Amarillo's Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Potter County Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn has strong feelings when it comes to fair representation in court.

"Everyone needs adequate, fair and quality representation, regardless of their bank account, regardless of their status, regardless of their ethnicity," Vaughn said.

Vaughn, also an Amarillo civil rights leader, says he's heard first-hand stories of people who've experienced unfair or poor representation in court.

"It only takes a few that would taint, and give a sour taste your mouth of those that are not being represented in a fair sense," Vaughn said.

Vaughn says he's confident most Amarillo attorneys do their best when representing their clients, but that having a designated office will help things go more smoothly.

"Statistics say that if you have over 750 or so odd cases, in an area [like Potter County], you're needing a public defender," Vaughn said. "We have over six times as many of those cases that are coming forth in Potter County."

Right now in Potter County, lawyers that are selected by judges to represent a defendant don't always have a lot of time, and can also be costly.

"Depending on what their case loads are, what their resources are, how often they can interface with their clientele, it sort of serves a little bit better, I think, having a PDO office," Vaughn said.

The future of a potential Public Defender Office is unknown, yet Vaughn is confident in what it could be like for the county.

"We would have a dedicated office, being able to share resources that are already there, and being able to help not have a fluctuated pricing system on a court-appointed attorney system," Vaughn said.

If commissioners agree to the proposal to put a committee in place, that committee will then look at if a Public Defender Office is a reality for Potter County.

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