Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mau-Mauing the Public Defender's Selection

The public defender is the person who runs an office of lawyers who defend criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer.

The incumbent is retiring, effective the end of the year.

Under the law, the County Legislature picks the Public Defender.

The President of the Leg, Wayne Zyra, organised a panel to screen applicants for the position and recommend them to the County Legislature. It would consist of: 3 judges, Stephen Linley, Nancy Smith and one other; one member appointed by the Democratic leader of the County Leg, one appointed by the Republican Leader, and two appointed by the County Bar Association.

The kind of panel you'd expect to screen applicants for an important legal position.

But Assemblyman David Gantt isn't happy.

Gantt began agitating for self-appointed "community groups" -- run by Gantt sock puppets -- to have posts on the committee.

Gantt's insisting on the kind of screning committee used back in the 'seventies when the current incumbent was chosen. His tactics, also, are straight out of the disco era:   Gantt's succeeded in mau-mauing the Bar Association, which earlier had approved the panel, and also the legislature's minority leader Harry Bronson, who earlier did the same, even participating in a joint press release with Zyra. Both have proclaimed they're pulling out of the screening committee.

Editorialists at the Democrat and Chronicle have scrupulously followed instructions from Gantt to pile on, running no fewer than three editorials on the subject so far.

Let's hope Zyra, who political insiders insist is a lot smarter than his reticent manner might indicate, doesn't cave.

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