Funding the County Courts

PLYMOUTH - While the jail population continues to grow law enforcement agencies and the Marshall County Council continue to deal with the price tag.

Warned several months ago by Marshall County Superior Court I Judge Robert Bowen that increased cases meant increased need for public defenders, the Council got the bill for that need on Monday. Bowen told the Council during budget hearings in August that he would be seeking around $37,000 extra in his 2014 budget and that he would likely need additional money to cover the cost for this year.

The County Council received a $20,000 request for additional money for this budget year at their regular meeting Monday morning to cover "pauper counsel" and approved it unanimously.

"We were warned about this a long time ago," said President of the Council Matt Hassel. "There's not a lot we can do."

When someone accused of a crime desires a lawyer to represent them but cannot afford one, the court is required to provide a public defender or "Pauper Counsel". Each Judge in the Marshall County court system requires that a defendant seeking such counsel prove that they cannot afford to pay for them by providing certain financial records before assigning them to a defendant.

Bowen isn't alone in the need. Superior Court II Judge Dean Colvin also added money to his pauper counsel line item for next year's budget for the same reason.

Bowen also asked to transfer funds between line items in his budget to cover overtime costs incurred by increased trials.

Meanwhile the increase in jail population is also causing Marshall County Sheriff Tom Chamberlin to search for ways to meet his needs.

Chamberlin asked the Council to transfer $3,000 between line items in his budget to cover increased cost of prisoner care. He transferred another $3,000 between items to cover overtime costs in his department.