September 19, 2023
Public defender's oversight board meeting
A meeting of the Brazos County Public Defender's Office Oversight Board was held on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. in suite 332 of the Brazos County Administration Building, 200 South Texas Avenue, Bryan, Texas. The following members of the Board were present:
Judge Duane Peters;
Judge Travis Bryan, III (retired);
Judge Willie Blackmon (retired), Absent;
Commissioner Irma Cauley (retired), Absent;
The attached sheet contains the names of citizens and officials that were in attendance.
The minutes were taken by Cheryl Coffman.
Approval of Minutes from the following Public Defender's Office Oversight Board Meetings:
- a. March 2, 2023 - Regular Meeting
- b. June 15, 2023 - Regular Meeting
|The Board voted unanimously to approve the minutes for the March 2, 2023 and June 15, 2023 meetings.|
Motion: Approve, Moved by Judge Duane Peters, Seconded by Michele Esparaza. Passed. 3-0. Ayes: Bryan, III, Esparaza, Peters. Absent: Blackmon, Cauley.
|3.||Approval of correction to the nomination form for reappointment of Board Member, Judge Willie Blackmon.|
|The correction to the form for the reappointment of Judge Blackmon to the Board was approved unanimously.|
Motion: Approve, Moved by Michele Esparaza, Seconded by Judge Duane Peters. Passed. 3-0. Ayes: Bryan, III, Esparaza, Peters. Absent: Blackmon, Cauley.
|4.||Review and discuss the Second (2nd) Quarterly Report.|
Chief Public Defender Nathan Wood presented the Second Quarterly report to the Board. Mr. Wood noted their numbers are well on target with requirements set forth by the TIDC. He noted that they have not had any jury trails at this time. Mr. Wood stated that the initial point of contact with a client happens within 72 hours of being appointed. Ms. Esparza stated that the Criminal Code specifies immediate contact and asked Mr. Wood to elaborate on the process. He answered that they usually try to make contact on the same day. He explained that most of their clients are in jail, so they try to make a face to face visit as soon as possible. Ms. Esparza was concerned with the 8.9 days listed as average number of days from appointment to initial interview. Ms. Hays explained that is an average over all their clients, some of which they have difficulty contacting. Mr. Wood further explained that someone from his office is present at the jail most every day. Mr. Wood explained to the Board that they are moving cases quickly. He also noted the use of myPadilla consultations for immigration purposes. Mr. Wood said they still have two attorney positions to be filled. A copy of the report is attached.
|5.||Review and discuss the current numbers for the Public Defender's Office.|
Mr. Wood reviewed the March through August case numbers with the Board. Mr. Wood explained the difference between charge numbers and case numbers. They have done intake on 243 charges and have disposed of 97. The following numbers are included in the report. There are a total of 262 cases (4 cases not included), 3 are first degree felonies, 11 are second degree felonies, 20 are third degree felonies, 32 are state jail felonies, 83 are class A misdemeanors, and 109 are class B misdemeanors. Mr. Wood said they are also on the appointment wheel to be assigned to enhanced felony cases. A copy of the report is attached.
|6.||Update on Public Defender's Office Representation at First Appearance.|
Mr. Wood explained the this was discussed at a previous meeting and the Board requested he look into providing staff at the time of magistration. He said he requested a position in the budget, but with lack of resources it is not possible at this time. Ms. Esparza stated that according to the Code of Criminal Procedure the Public Defender's office should receive their cases through the appointment process. She stated that being present at the magistration is not within the parameters of the grant or what is mandated by law.
|7.||Update on Public Defender's Office Representation for Pre-trial Diversion and Pre-Indictment Pleas.|
|Mr. Wood explained that they have discussed this item within the previous discussions.|
|8.||Update on FY 2024 Budget and TIDC Grant for the Public Defender's Office.|
|Mr. Wood said they requested a grant adjustment and were able to receive $65,000.00, which was used to reclassify and increase the salary for the attorney positions to be on par with the District Attorney's office. He is hoping to add an experienced defense attorney to the staff soon.|
|9.||Discuss the FY 2025 TIDC Grant options, regional expansion, and future office space.|
|Mr. Wood said they will start applying for grants again next year. Katie Connor stated she spoke to the grant writer and they will be assisting with those grant requests. Mr. Wood said he would like to look at expanding the office to a regional office as soon as next year depending on the TIDC and Board's recommendations. Judge Bryan stated that the Brazos County office must be the priority at this time. Mr. Wood agreed and said that a regional office could not be established until he is fully staffed with attorneys who are dedicated to taking on cases in other counties.|
|10.||Announcement of interest items and possible future agenda topics.|
|Mr. Wood introduced new defense attorney Yasmeen Aboellhasan to the Board.|