Public defender seeks more help

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County Public Defender Gerard McAuliffe wants a sixth assistant in his office.

He has requested creation of a three-year, part-time sixth assistant public defender position. The assistant would be assigned to both County Court and Johnstown City Court.

A total of $110,124 in state grant funding would cover the position for three years, McAuliffe said Monday. The 20-hour per-week position would have an annual salary of $25,000 with added projected county benefit costs of more than $11,000.

McAuliffe’s request was approved recently by the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety, Personnel and Finance committees and goes to the full board for final approval at 1 p.m. Monday.

He said he would like to fill the position within a month after board approval. He had applied for the grant on Feb. 10.

“The grant had previously been approved,” he said.

It is a three-year grant from the state Indigent Legal Services Fund. He said a contract was executed between the state and the county.

In 2003, State Finance Law created the Indigent Legal Services Fund, under the joint custody of the state Comptroller’s Office and the Commissioner of Tax and Finance. A section of the specifies that one of the prime purposes of the fund is to assist counties to provide legal representation for persons unable to afford it.

McAuliffe said the justification for the local position is to improve the quality of legal services to indigent individuals in Fulton County. McAuliffe said there is “absolutely” a need for extra help in his office, as per the caseload on indigent clients needing local legal services.

In addition to McAuliffe, his office is currently staffed with these assistant public defenders: Michael W. Smrtic, Michael J. Poulin, Roger L. Paul, Allen R. Day and Brian R. Wood.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at