And justice for all ... Chenango County's public defenders give voice to the downtrodden

NORWICH – Admitting the task is often thankless, Chenango County’s public defenders say doing their job isn’t as hard as most people might think – in spite of how most people feel about the job.

County Public Defender Alan Gordon said in 2006 his office was assigned over 1,600 cases from family and criminal court whose defendants could not afford legal representation. Gordon acknowledged that some offer their fair share of challenges.

“The bad part of the job is obvious,” he said. “Sometimes we deal with people who commit terrible crimes against other people. That can be hard.”

What’s not always obvious, Gordon and his four assistants say, are the evening hours they spend away from family in out-of-the-way town courts, the juggling acts they have to pull at their private practices, or the good and bad relationships they develop with assigned clients – because they believe in what they do.

As assistant Diane DiStefano pointed out, they are their client’s first and last resort, a distinction she proudly accepts.

“If you don’t help these people, no one else will,” DiStefano said. “These cases are no different than my retained ones – the case is the case, the facts are the facts, and you do what you have to do. Everyone deserves representation, and you do the best that you can.”

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