COCHISE COUNTY, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The creation of a new Cochise County legal office will provide citizens with more convenient and affordable access to its services.
The Legal Advocate Department will take on cases assigned by the County’s Indigent Defense Coordinator, and will help alleviate many of the conflict of interest issues that have occurred in the past.
Along with the Public Defender and Legal Defender offices, the Legal Advocate Department will represent clients unable to afford to hire their own lawyer. Introducing a third office means cases with multiple clients, such as parental rights proceedings or criminal trials involving more than two defendants, can be handled by Cochise County, rather than finding outside representation.
“There are not many local attorneys who do this kind of work and when we couldn’t find anyone we had to go outside to independent contractors, which can cost a lot of money,” said attorney Xochitl Orozco.
Orozco has moved from the Public Defender’s office to head the new department.
“That means we’re not adding any additional costs, we’re just splitting off,” explained newly appointed Public Defender Richard Karwaczka, who replaces Mark Suagee following his retirement. “Clients will have more access, in-house, rather than having to go with a contract attorney who can often be in Tucson.”
During Fiscal Year 2017/2018, the Indigent Defense Coordinator assigned 3,645 cases, with 1,687 of these forwarded to outside counsel at a cost of $891,430.
While some cases will still need to be sent to contract attorneys, the reorganization is expected to save the County and its taxpayers a significant amount in fees annually.
“The services within this office are much cheaper and we have more experienced attorneys who can take these cases,” Orozco said.
Karwaczka added, “We’ve created this new office to save both the County and its citizens money, while at the same time giving them exceptional legal representation.”
Karwaczka’s appointment as Public Defender, and the creation of the Legal Advocate Department, were approved by the Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting on February 26.