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Lubbock Private Defender’s Office appointing attorneys to migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 7:17 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Lubbock Private Defender’s Office will play a central role in relieving congestion for southern counties and jails as Operation Lone Star increases their efforts to arrest migrants crossing the border.

The Lubbock Private Defender’s office appoints attorneys to indigent defendants, people unable to afford their own attorney, in Lubbock County, but the office will now appoint attorneys for migrants arrested at the border.

Under governor Abbott’s “Operation Lone star,” police, deputies, and state troopers are arresting migrants crossing the border for state charges like trespassing.

As a result of the disaster declaration, the southern county jails are at capacity causing deputies to limit the number of citizens arrested for everyday crimes. One eyewitness said law enforcement agents were processing immigrants in an outdoor setting.

Executive director for the LPDO Shannon Evans said Southern counties are seeing 100 to 200 cases a day with 15 attorneys to handle that load.

“The counties don’t have the correct amount of attorneys to provide everybody with effective counsel,” Evans said.

The Del Rio Public legal aid will handle the first 200 cases then LPDO use their 21 attorneys and state-wide volunteer attorneys to manage the rest of the cases. The surge of migrants requires a surge of attorneys, so LPDO is seeking attorneys from across the state.

Evans said LPDO’s is well equipped to handle the case load by using their own ‘managed assigned counsel system.’ Since 2009, LCPDO has pioneered a system which ensures effective counsel by limiting the number of cases an attorney is assigned to.

“We’re able to manage how many cases that they’re assigned to and we can manage when they’re getting close to their limit. And we can rearrange or add second chairs to ease the burden on their caseload,” Evans said.

Although it’s an enormous task for the tiny downtown office, Evans is confident because the approach has worked for Lubbock county nearly a decade.

“Our office is unique. And we’ve been able to handle the hybrid method through remote operations. We’ve been doing it since 2009, so we’ve been kind of the pioneer for this manager assigned counsel model. So I think they figured if, if anybody could do it, we could do it. And we were happy to help on this project,” Evans said.

The project is entirely funded by the Texas Indigent Defense Counsel, which receives funding from the Governor’s office. So far, over a million dollars has been approved to cover attorney fees and traveling costs.

Attorneys with immigration law experience are encouraged to participate. To learn more and apply, go to the Lubbock Private Defender’s Office.

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