Public Defender’s Office Sees Caseload Drop with New Law

Lawmakers passed bills in 2017 that reorganized agency, eliminated jail time for some misdemeanors

By Associated Press

BOZEMAN — An official with the Montana public defender’s office says a new state law has helped reduce his agency’s total caseload by 5 percent.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the Office of the State Public Defender has seen a 10 percent decrease in municipal and justice court cases, and a 1 percent increase in district court cases.

Division administrator Peter Ohman says the reduction is largely due to reforms passed by state lawmakers in 2017.

Ohman spoke at the Montana Judges Association Conference, which is meeting in Bozeman this week.

The public defender’s office has struggled for years with a rising caseload and high turnover among the attorneys who represent indigent defendants.

Lawmakers passed a package of bills last year that reorganized the agency, eliminated jail time for numerous misdemeanors and aimed to cut recidivism rates.

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