PRESTONSBURG — The Department of Public Advocacy hosted numerous dignitaries and other guests Wednesday, during an open house at the agency’s new Prestonsburg office.
The new office — located on Court Street, directly across from the Judicial Center — provides a more convenient place for locals represented by public defenders to meet with their attorneys.
State Public Advocate Ed Monahan was among the dignitaries attending the event, which also included state Rep. Hubert Collins, Circuit Judge John Caudill and District Judge Eric Hall. Monahan said the office opening is part of a wider strategy.
“We’re working very hard by 2020 to have a public defender’s office in each of the 57 judicial districts, so we can have one in each district where there’s a commonwealth’s attorney, so we can serve clients, courts, prosecutors, in a more efficient way and a more effective way,” Monahan said.
The role of the public defender’s office is extremely important, Monahan said, because it helps ensure each person is afforded the basic protections provided by the Constitution.
“We have an important role in the criminal justice system, to make sure people’s rights are protected,” Monhan said. “I ask each of our public defenders to represent each of their clients as if they’re representing their best friend’s daughter or son. That’s what we want for our system to have integrity. If we have an office in each judicial district, we’ll be able to do that much more effectively.”
Floyd County was formerly served by the public advocacy office in Pikeville. With the opening of the Prestonsburg office, another office in Paintsville has closed and moved to Prestonsburg, meaning the staff of eight attorneys, an investigator and a social worker in the local office serves clients in Floyd, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties. Monahan, however, said the department plans to reopen an office in Paintsville within the next few years.
The open house is actually a little late, as the department opened the Prestonsburg office last year. Steve Goble, directing attorney of the local office, said the it is already showing that public defenders can now better serve Floyd County clients.
“We’ve been over here a year now, and one of the things that has happened is it’s really allowed us to increase our coverage of clients in the Floyd County court system,” Goble said. “Being nearby matters.
“Floyd Circuit Court was previously handled by Pike County, and they did a great job of getting down here. But we represent a lot of indigent people, and it’s harder for them to travel to see their attorney.”