Powell named as Public Defender for District 29A

JUDICIAL DISTRICT 29A – Resident Superior Court Judge Tommy Davis has named Judge Laura Powell as the Public Defender (PD) for the district 29A. A graduate of the University of Georgia Law School, Powell brings 24 years of experience – 12 as a judge- to the position that serves indigent clients.

With the new position serving Rutherford & McDowell Counties, the Public Defender (PD) will hire her own defense attorneys and staff.  The Public Defender’s office, staff, and attorneys will mirror that of the District Attorney’s. Implementation is expected December 1, 2018.

Details of the position can be found in Senate Bill 99:

29 (b) For each new term, and to fill any vacancy, public defenders shall be appointed from 30 a list of not less than two and not more than three and not more than four names nominated as follows:
32 (1) Not less than two and not more than three by written ballot of the attorneys 33 resident in the defender district who are licensed to practice law in North 34 Carolina. The balloting shall be conducted pursuant to rules adopted by the 35 Commission on Indigent Defense Services.
36 (2) One name submitted by the Administrative Officer of the Courts after 37 consultation with the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services.
38 (b1) The appointment required under subsection (b) of this section shall be made by the senior resident superior court judge of the superior court district or set of districts as defined in G.S. 7A-41.1 that includes the county or counties of the defender district for which the public defender is being appointed.

Both Senator Ralph Hise and House Rep. David Rogers, voted aye for Senate Bill 99. The approved 2018-2019 NC budget did not include funds for a Public Defenders’ office. The Counties are mandated to provide these public defenders offices.

Public Defenders are full-time, state-paid attorneys whose function is to represent indigent criminal defendants and indigent respondents in civil cases in which there is a right to counsel. If a defendant cannot afford an attorney and is accused of a crime that could result in imprisonment, the defendant is eligible for the services of a lawyer at state expense. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she must pay back the money spent on his or her defense. Sixteen districts in the state already have Public Defenders.