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St. Lawrence County Public Defender Mary Rain resigns

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County Public Defender Mary E. Rain resigned Wednesday but will keep her open cases through the assigned counsel program.

Ms. Rain has opened a private practice at 307 Elizabeth St., Ogdensburg.

She said the overwhelming workload in the public defender’s office convinced her to leave the county’s employ. As of Tuesday, Ms. Rain said she had 450 case files, including about 300 felonies.

“For the past two years, I’ve been treading water,” Ms. Rain said. “I feel I can do a more effective job in private practice. When you’re in private practice, the hours are more flexible.”

Ms. Rain went on paid administrative leave in September at the same time the county was reviewing a position change made in March that stripped her of the operational oversight of her office.

However, the county and Ms. Rain are separating on good terms.

“It was a completely amicable parting of the ways,” County Attorney Michael C. Crowe said.

The retention of her cases will ease the burden on the Public Defender’s office, which is left with five attorneys, including Stephen D. Button, the chief assistant public defender who has handled the office’s administrative responsibilities for the last seven months.

But the office will be down to four attorneys come Nov. 14 when Jeffrey A. Ellsworth leaves for a teaching job at the University of Luxembourg, Mr. Button said.

Even though the county Board of Legislators has imposed a hiring freeze, Mr. Button will ask lawmakers at the Finance Committee meeting Monday to allow him to fill Mr. Ellsworth’s position.

Mr. Button said most of the attorneys in the office, including himself, carry more than 400 cases.

“I’m surrounded by a great group of people who are dedicated to their positions and they try to pick up where they can,” he said.

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