BRYAN, Texas — The Brazos County Public Defenders Office had been in the works since 2021 after judges and lawyers noticed a growing backlog of cases coming out of the pandemic with fewer and fewer lawyers to handle them.
"What it says about Brazos County is that Brazos County is committed to answering that promise of equal justice under law," Chief Public Defender Nathan Wood said. "That is a fundamental promise that's guaranteed to everybody in this country under the Constitution."
The firm has already started taking on clients thanks to their current 10 full-time employees, with 6 lawyers and 4 non-lawyers, with room for even more.
"I hope that when they see our names and when they see the work that we're willing to do for them, they know that they have someone like me, someone like Nathan's someone like the other attorneys in this office that they know that regardless of the fact that we're court appointed, we're going to work really hard for them," said Chief Assistant Public Defender, Maritza Sifuentez-Chavarria.
Wood says the office is taking a holistic approach, with mental health, and substance abuse services to not only help residents win their cases but also help them make better life choices so they never enter the system again.
"We have very capable lawyers working in the office," Wood said. "We also have a social work side of our office that can plug people who are unable to afford an attorney and might need some basic needs met, they might need food or housing."
According to Woods, there were 3000 active felony cases in the county before COVID-19, and has increased by 10% in the years after the pandemic.