Commissioners nix a new part-time county attorney position

November 26, 2013
WEST STEWARTSTOWN — County attorney John McCormick of Lancaster did not make the case that funding should be included to hire a part-time assistant county attorney to serve as a liaison to eliminate the "disconnect" between his office and the individual police departments that operate in Cos County.

The position is needed now, McCormick said, pointing out that the cases his office prosecutes are more complex than in the past and that his office is spending a lot more time advising police departments, which is part of its job.

Furthermore, he said, Judge Tina Nadeau, Chief Justice of the Superior Court System, is seriously recommending that a statewide case flow management system to speed up the resolution of felony cases be instituted in the state's court system, likely within the next two years.

If Nadeau were able to make the substantial changes for which she is an advocate, then county prosecutors would take charge of all felony cases as soon as an arrest is made.

Felony cases would be filed in Superior Court rather than, as now, in District Court. The research, Nadeau argues, indicates that this would lead to earlier plea bargain agreements, resulting in less time for those awaiting trail in county jails.

The emphasis would shift from today's leisurely approach to early and accurate decisions about exactly what charges should be brought against someone who has been arrested, increased communication across-the-board, and speedier resolution.

Nadeau believes that the change would streamline the system, making it far more efficient.

Commissioner Paul Grenier told McCormick that it was late in the budget cycle to ask for additional personnel. Furthermore, since the Legislature will likely have to change the law to before a new statewide case flow management system can be adopted, there would be plenty of time in the future to ramp up for such a change, Grenier said. It would be highly unlikely that police officers would be able to present cases in Superior Court, and time would have to be allowed for changes to be made in prosecutors' offices across the state.

Nadeau has apparently indicated that any legislative changes would not put forward to change state law until Sept. 2014.

Commissioner Tom Brady agreed that there is time for the county to see if the Legislature supports the change. "Let it shake down a bit," he advised.

Samson agreed with his fellow board members.

Brady noted, however, that the county attorney could go directly to the county delegation to ask its members to fund a part-time position.

The commissioners agreed, however, that McCormick's 2014 budget should include funds for a new printer to replace one that did not work at all.

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