KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) — County commissions in central Idaho say they are moving forward with a plan to establish an in-house public defense office rather than continue contracting lawyers to provide representation for poor people caught in the criminal justice system. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that the Blaine County plan comes at a time when Idaho is facing a class-action lawsuit over allegations the state's public defense system is faulty and violates the 6th Amendment rights of its citizens. County commissioners have recently asked staff to figure out the cost of building a new four-person public defense department that would mirror the structure of the prosecuting attorney's office. Last year, Blaine County spent $364,000 in public defense contracting fees. Early estimates of the new department are expected to be around $600,000 annually.

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