Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 3, 2014

County accepts grant money

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Henderson County Commissioners Court accepted Texas Indigent Defense Formula Grant Funds on Tuesday and also a special payment to help pay for court appointed attorneys.

Jennifer Nicholson of the auditor’s office who coordinates county grants for the county said the grant amount is $72,773 this year. The special funds in the amount of $49,618 were released from the Texas Legislature this year after being withheld when it was thought they would be needed to help balance the budget.

The 2014 Task Force on Indigent Defense Formula Grant is administered under provisions of the Texas Fair Defense Act passed in 2001. The amount the county has received through the grant represents a small portion of the total it spends to provide court appointed attorneys .The county received $67,000 through the grant in 2013, but spent $734,000 on indigent defense.

According to the Texas Fair Defense Act, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that indigent persons accused of a crime in a state court had the right to court-appointed counsel. Texas funneled the responsibility down to the counties to help supply legal counsel.

“The county does pay a lot on court appointed expenses,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade McKinney said. “The thing the county and I, myself sometimes forget is one of the primary services of the county is providing judicial services. I believe the indigent defense program that we have is very effective.”

McKinney added that since the Fair Defense Act took effect, the cost to the county of providing indigent defense had increased exponentially.

The Commissioners Court also voted to:

• refund a total of about $48,000 to 16 individuals or companies for overpayment of property taxes;

• appointed David Holdredge and Toni Clay to the Clint W. Murchsion Library Board and re-appointed Meredith Lemon;

• authorized payment of 2014 bills in the amount of $36,281.76;

• authorized payment in the amount of $193,793.44.