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Maine Governor Proposes Public Defender System

AUGUSTA, Maine - Gov. Paul LePage has submitted legislation that would create a new system of public defenders to assure that every poor Maine resident charged with a crime receives adequate legal representation.

Maine is the only state without public defenders, and has long relied on paying individual lawyers on a case-by-case basis. Sen. David Burns, a Republican from Whiting, co-chairs the Judiciary Committee and is sponsoring the bill for the governor.

"It's kind of a hybrid of what we originally saw," Burns says. "It involves some contracting, some staff, but no increased headcount for the state, which is important to me."

Saco Democratic Rep. Barry Hobbins co-chairs the committee and is co-sponsoring the bill for the governor. Hobbins says he doubts that the bill can be considered in the next few weeks, so he and Burns will ask that it be carried over to the January session so the committee can work on the legislation this summer.