By: L.N. Reklai
Senator Regis Akitaya questions Public Defender’s Office accepting clients that are not poor according to a letter to Public Defender Dan Mizinov.
“The representation of indigent defendants in criminal matters is an honorable and underappreciated task, which by most reports you perform ably and diligently. However, it has come to my attention that some of your clients many not be indigent and thus not within the mandate of Section 402,” stated Akitaya in his letter to Mizinov.
The Office of Public Defender which falls under the Ministry of State is tasked with providing legal representation for people accused of crimes but cannot afford to pay for legal defense.
According to Senator Akitaya reports have reached him that the Office of Public Defender is accepting clients that are high officials, high level government employees and rich private individuals that can pay for their own legal representation.
“We have asked the Office of Public Defender to provide us with their standards for accepting clients and for determining their indigent status,” stated Akitaya in a phone interview.
The letter also requests the OPD to conduct an audit of their current clients to ensure that they are actually poor and to remove those that can afford their own attorneys.
“If you should discover that there are such non-indigent clients on your client list, I demand that you immediately terminate your representation of them and refer them to the Palau Bar Association to seek hired counsel,” stated the letter.
The Senator further request that report of the OPD’s internal audit be provided to the Senate after the audit is concluded. [/restrict]