Public defender hired by county

Public defender hired by county By David Lias The Clay County Commission has spent the last week looking for the appropriate place in the courthouse to locate a new office.

The commission has hired Phillip O. Peterson, an attorney from Beresford, as the county's new public defender.

Peterson's joining the county staff should help relieve some of the workload presently experienced by State's Attorney Tami Bern.

The county received 12 bids from area attorneys for the position. Peterson offered the lowest bid, at $28,500.

His hiring is contingent on Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch's approval.

The commission also is apparently not counting on help from Pierre, and decided to forge ahead with its own plans to hire a public defender.

The South Dakota Legislature would have to fail to pass the Statewide Public Defender Bill, Bern said, for Peterson to be hired in the method approved by the commission.

"If the bill passes," she said, "the contract would have to be modified," she said.

The commissioners hope to find an area in the courthouse for Peterson that is accessible but at the same time offers privacy and is soundproof.

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