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St. Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office receives grant

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CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Public Defender’s Office has been awarded a grant of nearly $300,000 from the state Office of Indigent Legal Services to better manage its increasing caseload.

The grant of $299,408 is to be spread over three years. Public Defender Stephen D. Button, who wrote the grant application, will seek permission from the county Board of Legislators to hire a seventh attorney with the money.

In 2012, the Public Defender’s Office handled 2,718 cases. In 2013, the department’s caseload was 3,165. Early indications are that this year’s will be even higher.

“St. Lawrence County was hit hard by the 2008 recession and it has taken us longer to recover than other counties,” Mr. Button said in a statement. “When people are financially distressed, they tend to rely on our services to a greater extent.”

The county also earlier received a grant of $587,000 from the state Office of Indigent Defense to implement a program to provide counsel at first appearance. Funding from the new grant will also be used to assist in establishing the program.

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