Joe P. Asher
The Public Defender’s Office, a division of the Department of Public Advocacy, has opened new offices at 120 Professional Lane in Harlan.
Project Manager and Attorney Daniel Schulman and Senior Attorney Laura Karem have been assigned to handle the case load in the Harlan office. Administration Specialist Traci Bowman and Investigator Jennifer Gibson are also on staff.
Karem gave a brief history of the public defender’s operations in Harlan.
“In a sense, we’re the first official office. Bob Thomas has been here for decades and he’s had his office on the square with Mark Ford,” explained Karem.
“He worked out of Mark Ford’s office,” explained Schulman. “Technically though, he was a remote DPA (Department of Public Advocacy) employee.”
Karem explained there is a plan to establish more public defender offices throughout the state.
“To implement the 20/20 plan for DPA there’s a goal to have a Public Defender’s Office in every judicial circuit to match up with the commonwealth’s attorney’s offices,” said Karem.
Schulman explained a public defender must be court appointed.
“We are here to represent everyone who is deemed to be indigent who is facing jail time,” explained Schulman. “What happens is when they get arrested they have to meet with an agency called Pre-Trial Services. They do what’s called an affidavit of indigency, which looks into their financial status. If they are deemed to be indigent then we are appointed.”
According to Karem, the “majority of people that are charged with crimes end up being indigent.”
“What we see is people who have an income only through Social Security disability, they’re unemployed and haven’t been employed in a couple months,” said Karem. “We don’t get a lot of people who are currently working.”
With two attorneys currently assigned to the Harlan office, there are hopes to expand the staff in the near future.
“We hope to bring in a third,” said Schulman.
“We’d like a new attorney in the office tomorrow,” said Karem. “That would be ideal. But, we have to wait.”
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com