December 16, 2013

Essex County defender heads for active duty

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Public Defender’s Office will have to run without Chief Public Defender Brandon Boutelle for nine months in 2014.

Boutelle said Tuesday he is being recalled to active duty with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, effective Jan. 4.

He said his orders say he will provide legal services at a Navy submarine base.

Previously, Boutelle served a tour as a military defense attorney at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba.

He told the Essex County Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee that he won’t return from the sub base until Oct. 10, 2014.

24/7 JOB

The committee voted unanimously to make Assistant Public Defender William Tansey acting chief public defender while Boutelle is gone and pay him the chief defender’s salary.

“It (chief defender) is a 24/7 job. It’s worth the extra pay,” Boutelle said.

The county will also hire a temporary full-time assistant public defender to do Tansey’s job while he is acting chief defender.


Boutelle said he is not paid by the county while on military leave, so there should be no additional cost to the county.

“I think we can cover my absence within the same budgetary footprint, but it’s whatever works best for the county,” Boutelle said.

The alternative would be to ask local courts to use the assigned-counsel program to fill the gaps.

“I think it’s more complicated in the long run to go out to the assigned-counsel program,” County Manager Daniel Palmer said. “I’d prefer we hire someone.”

The committee OK’d hiring a full-time temp, and it gets a final vote at the Board of Supervisors’ year-end meeting at 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 30.


Boutelle, of Lake Placid, was named an assistant public defender in January 2005 and then chief defender in 2010, following the death of Livingston Hatch.

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