The Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has sent a three-page “open letter” to Kootenai County commissioners, decrying the firing of longtime Kootenai County Public Defender John Adams. “Individuals familiar with both Mr. Adams and his office have noted that the decision to end his tenure as the Kootenai County Public Defender is ‘disastrous,’ ‘shameful,’ and ‘catastrophic,’” the letter says. “We too must add our voices to those who recognize that it is the people of Kootenai County that will lose if your decision stands.”
The association, which has more than 300 members statewide, applauded Kootenai County for launching a “comprehensive evaluation of the public defender program,” but said dismissing Adams “appears to presuppose the outcome of any comprehensive evaluation would be a recommendation for new management of the office, or to disband the office and move to an assigned counsel system.” To the contrary, the group said, a report issued three years ago by the National Legal Aid and Defender’s Association ranked the Kootenai public defender’s office, under Adams’ leadership, the best in the state. “Notably, one of the problems that was actually identified with the office was the Commission’s political influence over the defense function,” the group wrote. “Choosing this time to terminate an experienced, well respected, effective and seasoned public defender seems imprudent at best.” You can read the full letter here.