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What you need to know for 01/21/2018

Saratoga County appoints first conflict defender

Saratoga County appoints first conflict defender

A lawyer best-known for his election work for the Republican Party is expected to be named Saratoga

A lawyer best-known for his election work for the Republican Party is expected to be named Saratoga County’s first conflict defender.

James E. Walsh of Ballston Spa was recommended Wednesday for the $44,493-a-year, part-time position by the county board’s Personnel Committee. The appointment will go before the full Board of Supervisors on March 18.

In the role, Walsh will represent criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer but can’t be represented by the county Public Defender Office because it represents another defendant in the same case or has another conflict of interest.

Walsh said he’s qualified. “I do a lot of general criminal practice, a DWI practice, as well as having an election practice,” he said.

Walsh, who has a solo law practice, has done assigned counsel criminal defense in Schenectady, but is best known locally for handling some prominent election law cases that turned on absentee ballot counts.

Last fall, he successfully represented Malta Supervisor Paul Sausville — who is now chairman of the county board — in preserving his one-vote re-election victory.

Walsh also represented state Sen. Kathy Marchione during her close GOP primary win over incumbent Roy McDonald in 2012 and participated in the mayoral recount in Schenectady in 2011. He represented Assemblyman James Tedisco in recounts of his loss in a special 2009 congressional election.

Walsh said he doesn’t see conflicts of interest arising between his election work and his new job, unless he were to appear before a judge whose election he had been involved in.

Walsh last month was also named Ballston’s new town attorney after Republican Patrick Zeigler was elected town supervisor.

The county conflict defender’s office is new, having been established last year to try to reduce the county’s $450,000 annual spending for outside counsel when the Public Defender Office has a conflict.

The new office should eliminate most of that cost, County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said, because appearing at court hearings or trials will be covered in the position’s salary.

The office’s $147,000 annual budget includes money to hire two assistants, to be appointed by Walsh. The budget will be entirely reimbursed by the state’s indigent defender program.

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