SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Eastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia now has a new circuit public defender. He was officially introduced as such at Friday’s Chatham County Commission meeting.
Todd Martin is no stranger to the office. He was part of the original team of lawyers when the office first started in Chatham County, back in 2005.
Martin calls the appointment one of the greatest honors of his life, saying he strongly believes in the mission of the public defender’s office, which is to represent indigent clients to the best of their ability in superior court.
During the meeting, Martin was recognized and congratulated for his new role. The public defender’s office has an important hand in making sure those who can’t afford to hire an attorney have legal representation when they go before a judge.
Martin says so many of their clients are also dealing with substance addiction, and suffer from mental illness. When he started with the office back in 2005, he was one of seven attorneys. Today, they have 19, but he says they still need more. He says the number of arrests has gone up in recent years, leading to larger case loads for his staff. To keep up with the numbers, Martin is asking county commissioners to make room in the budget for more defenders - ideally, 23 altogether. He explains that’s not only important for those accused of crimes and their legal rights, but also for taxpayers.
“People sitting in jail, they’re sitting there costing taxpayers $65, and if it takes a year, two years to get the case resolved, well, do the math," Martin said.
The Chatham County sheriff says once you factor in things like medical care, that number is actually more like $70 a day.