Lincoln County Public Defender Dylan Frehner will step into the role of District Attorney in January 2019, following his election to the position in the June primary.

Now the task begins of finding a new public defender, and speaking to the July 2 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, Frehner suggested the county choose a person as soon as possible before Jan. 1.

Current Assistant District Attorney Franklin Katschke has expressed interest in the position, as has Shain Manuel, of Ely, who has been serving as public defender when conflicts arise.

District Attorney Daniel Hooge explained that “when a case involves multiple defendants, that one attorney [Frehner] can’t represent multiple people because sometimes their defenses conflict. So then a second attorney is called in for those cases.” Manuel has been that person lately.

Judge Gary Fairman of the 7th Judicial District Court, told the board keeping the public defender based in Lincoln County, as Frehner has been for the past eight years, has been a great service. He said it allows immediate provision of counsel. “It has helped with respect to right-to-counsel issues, especially in our jurisdiction. It has provided stability with regards to defense representation and has made representation more accessible to defendants.” In short, Fairman said, “The system is working very well.”

And because the system is working as well as it is, Frehner suggested it would be beneficial for the board to look at splitting the public defender contract into two and providing for two attorneys. He again stated the importance of keeping the service handled by local attorneys.

Katschke also said he feels the county is in need of more legal representation.

Commissioner Kevin Phillips suggested Katschke modify his proposal as public defender to include possible cost overages as well as any amounts under the contract and bring those numbers back to the July 16 meeting.

The board did not take any further action.