Pets and public defenders, there are too many of the former and not enough of the later in St. Joseph County. The County Council tried to remedy those problems at their first meeting of 2007.
The Animal Control and Licensing Ordinance is aimed at making the owners of dangerous pets take responsibility for them and by requiring licenses and vaccinations.
“I am here as the survivor of a pit bull attack,” St. Clair Poindextor told the council. “I am still in pain and on medication four years later.”
The ordinance once identified pit bulls as dangerous animals, but specific breeds have been taken out of the proposal. “What this means to the law abiding pet owners of this county is more taxes,” explains Greg Burkowski, who is against the ordinance. “It will do nothing to address the ones that already are skirting the law.”
The St. Joseph County Council passed that animal control ordinance in a vote of 6-3.
In a vote of 8-1 the council created a Public Defender Board.
This board of three appointed members will develop better ways to screen defendants who truly can not afford their own attorneys. It will also address the shortage of public defenders in St. Joseph County.
”I had two murder cases last year and by my count I had 132 felonies. That is almost three times what I used to do,” Public Defender Chuck Lahey testified before the council.
If the board brings more public defenders to St. Joseph County and ensures them better pay, it could cause problems for the prosecutor's office.
“When you create a maximum caseload standard for deputy public defenders you're going to have to do the same thing for deputy prosecutors,” explains County Prosecutor, Mike Dvorak. “I think there needs to be a fairness about this.”
The Public Defender Board will be appointed by the Circuit, Superior and Probate courts and by two members of the County Council within the next 60 days.
The Animal Control and Licensing Ordinance will likely go into effect April 1st.