In order to save money on hourly outside attorney fees, Niagara County is poised to hire three more staff attorneys.

The lawyers, which would be hired July 1, would be paid $40,000 and will not be extended health care benefits.

They will be in charge of handling cases that are in conflict with cases already being handled by the county’s public defender office.

Because the state raised the hourly rates counties must pay outside attorneys that represent clients that can’t be represented by the public defender’s office because of conflicts, also known as assigned counsel, county officials believe it’s cheaper to hire part-time attorneys instead.

“By doing this we could save the county a minimum of $200,000,” said Legislator Clyde Burmaster.

Last year, the county paid $552,000 in assigned counsel expenses.

In addition to three attorneys, the office will also be staffed with an assigned counsel coordinator, who will earn $27,500, and a secretary, who will earn $30,000.

The county will likely still need to pass assigned counsel cases to outside attorneys, but will be able to do much more of the work in-house.

Creation of the assigned counsel office was approved by the Legislature’s Community Safety and Security Committee on Wednesday.

It must be approved by the full Legislature.

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