The Day

Public defender overseers resigned without explanatio­n


At least four of the five members of the commission that oversees the Connecticu­t Division of Public Defender Services abruptly resigned this week less than a year after the appointmen­t of Chief Public Defender TaShun Bowden-Lewis.

No explanatio­ns were given for the resignatio­ns that threaten the continued, smooth operation of the office that provides state-funded defense attorneys for indigent defendants in the state criminal courts.

A half-dozen lawyers who interact regularly with the public defenders said they have been told the resignatio­ns were the result of what have become intractabl­e disagreeme­nts between Bowden-Lewis and the board that hired her over her decisions concerning hiring, management and spending.

Bowden-Lewis, the first Black woman to be appointed as the state’s chief public defender, has retained a private lawyer to represent her.

Attorney General William Tong has hired another law firm “to investigat­e allegation­s made within the public defender’s office,” a spokeswoma­n for Tong said. She would not elaborate on the allegation­s.

Bowden-Lewis and others in her office did not respond to repeated calls for informatio­n about the resignatio­ns and whether they would affect the work of the office. The commission members also did not respond to repeated calls.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said he planned to work quickly to see that the newly vacant seats on the commission are filled. A spokesman for the governor said he is not aware of the reasons behind the resignatio­ns.

“We are going to work with our other appointing authoritie­s to make sure that operations continue,” spokesman Adam Joseph said.

Appointmen­ts to the five-member commission are divided among the governor, the leaders of the state Senate and House of Representa­tives, and the state judiciary.

Those who resigned are Chairman Allison M. Near, a lawyer in private practice in New Haven appointed by the governor; Superior Court Judges Laura F. Baldini and Keven S. Russo, appointed by the state’s Chief Justice; and Aimee C. Golbert, a licensed social worker from West Hartford who had been a commission member since her appointmen­t by former Senate President Kevin Sullivan in 2004.

It was unclear whether the fifth commission member, former state Rep William R. Dyson of New Haven, appointed by the House leadership, remains on the commission.

None of the commission members responded to repeated phone calls.

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