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5 special public defender spots open

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County court is accepting applications from attorneys for five special public defender positions, each with an annual salary of $37,000.

Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney regardless of whether they can afford one.

When they cannot afford an attorney, one from the McHenry County Public Defender’s Office is appointed.

However, the public defender’s office sometimes has conflicts, such as when a co-defendant already is being represented by the office. When that happens, a special public defender is appointed.

Special public defenders are private lawyers who can be appointed to adult misdemeanor and felony cases, as well as juvenile delinquency and child protection cases.

A decision on who will fill the positions will be made by Dec. 15; the appointments will take effect Jan. 1.

The current special public defenders are William Bligh, Richard Kelly, Colin MacMeekin, Patrick Walsh and Charles McKenney.

They must reapply for the job.

Court Administrator Dan Wallis said several of the existing contracts were out of date.

“There needed to be a check-and-balance system and some additional language put in for performance and goals,” Wallis said. “We just wanted to get them on the same page and at the same time, decided if we’re going to do this, let’s just move forward and terminate the existing contracts.”

Applicants must be a licensed attorney in good standing and preferably one who practices in McHenry County, Wallis said. “You want somebody who’s intelligent, passionate about providing a zealous defense, but at the same time grounded and realistic,” he said.

To be considered, attorneys must submit a cover letter and resume by 5 p.m. Nov. 30 to: Twenty Second Judicial Circuit, Court Administration, Attn: Dan Wallis, Trial Court Administrator, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Room 355, Woodstock, IL 60098.

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