MAYVILLE - Republican lawmakers will likely have their pick for public defender decided by the end of the week.
On Tuesday, Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, told The Post-Journal that the majority party's caucus had concluded its interview process for the position.
"The applications came in by the 22nd of November," Croscut said. "So we went through the applications, of which we had 10, and we picked seven people to interview that met the criteria or that we felt had background to be candidates for public defender."
Those seven candidates were then interviewed by Republican legislators, who met in caucus after Wednesday night's meeting to discuss the coming appointment.
The position of public defender is filled at the start of each year during the legislature's annual re-organizational meeting. In order to have a candidate on the agenda for vote at the coming meeting, Croscut said the caucus will have to come to a decision soon.
The county's current public defender, William Coughlin, was one of the seven who submitted applications and was selected by the caucus to be interviewed.
"Oh, yes," Croscut said when asked whether Coughlin had made the cut. "Get this right now, he was one of the seven that we interviewed. We interviewed him Monday. We wanted to get the best candidate for the job, so we'll be going over those candidates and discussing their interviews in caucus."
Coughlin was narrowly re-appointed to the position at the start of this year.
During the January meeting, it was still unknown which party would hold majority throughout 2010 and 2011. Due to the closeness of the legislature's District 7 race, the body looked split between Republicans and the combination of Democrats and Democratic-leaning legislators.
Because no clear winner had yet emerged from the contested race, Leon Beightol, the Democratic incumbent candidate in District 7, was able to vote on Coughlin's re-appointment at the meeting. The District 7 seat is now held by Bob Stewart, R-Ellington.
After a failed attempt by Democrats to change the tenure of the appointment from one year to a two-year term, Coughlin was re-appointed as public defender through 2010 in a 14 to 11 vote.
All 11 Democrats sitting at the time voted for Coughlin, as did Scot Stutzman, I-Jamestown; Bob Duff, R-Sheridan, and Fredonia Republican Bob Scudder.
In the days following the vote, Scudder explained why he voted against the majority of the rest of his party.
While campaigning for the Fredonia seat, formerly held by David Kleparek, Scudder told a District 24 constituent that he would not vote against Coughlin as public defender. His vote at the start of this year was him simply making good on a campaign promise.
"It made my vote very easy last night," Scudder said at the time. "I'm the type of person that my 'yes' is 'yes' and my 'no' is 'no.' I'm not used to the political arena, but I think if there's anywhere that that should stand up, it's in the political arena."