Updated Thu, May 15, 2014 5:11 pm
Changes caused by the resignation of the former director of the Athens County branch of the Ohio Public Defender's Office will affect the already heavy caseload the office says it has.
Glenn Jones filed his resignation with the office on Friday, according to current director Herman Carson. Jones had been serving as director until Carson's recent appointment to the position.
Carson was promoted to director of the Athens office and also to oversee the multi-county program for the branches located in southern Ohio, including Athens, Ross and Washington Counties. The changes were effective on April 10, Carson said.
"It's something that I was asked to do (by the Ohio Public Defender's Office)," Carson said.
Doug Francis was also promoted, to supervisor of the attorneys at the Athens office.
Jones did not offer a reason for his resignation, according to Amy Borror, spokeswoman for the state office.
When Jones was contacted by The Messenger, he declined to comment and referred all questions to Borror.
Carson also referred questions about Jones' resignation to Borror, but said the office will now have to figure out a way to cover the cases assigned to Jones.
"We're so shorthanded right now as it is," Carson said. "I believe some cases will be handled by the Columbus office."
He said Columbus trial attorneys from the Ohio Public Defender's Office have already visited the Athens branch and taken some files from Jones' cases.
Jones was the defense attorney for Jennifer Davidson, who has been facing allegations of rape for more than a year. After many continuances, she was set to go to trial on June 23.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said he does not expect many delays because of Jones' departure from the public defender's office.
"They have more than enough attorneys, I would think," Blackburn said. "Maybe we would need to set back cases a week or so, but no more than that."
The changes come as the office is approaching the county commissioners for approval of the office's annual contract. Members of the Columbus office came to Wednesday's commission meeting to present the contract that would replace the one ending in July of this year.
Commissioner Charlie Adkins said he is reviewing the contract.
"They want to hire another attorney and I don't think that's needed," Adkins said. "I think we can use local people, if they need they can contract out to local attorneys in town."
Though local attorneys are used in the event that the public defender's office has a conflict of interests (for example, representing a witness in a case), they aren't contracted through the public defender's office, Carson said.
But the additional attorney is needed because of the increased caseload throughout the public defender's office, Carson said.
"In 2013, we opened 500 more cases than we opened in 2012," Carson said. "As far as I can tell, the commissioners recognize that there are caseload increases."
The commissioners have approval authority over the contract with the public defender's office because they receive reimbursements from the office for certain activities conducted in Athens, like transcript copying, Adkins said. The commissioners do not determine who is hired in the office.
The contract has not yet been approved by commissioners, but for now the Athens branch will be looking for someone to fill Jones' spot.
"Hopefully someone with a lot of trial experience like he had," Carson said.