BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Jefferson County courts are switching to a public defender system in a move meant to control costs.
Circuit Judge Scott Vowell said the new public defender's office will have a dedicated staff of attorneys to represent defendants who cannot afford their own attorney.
Right now, judges appoint private lawyers to represent indigent defendants.
Vowell said creating the new office could take months.
Officials estimate it will have 40 lawyers and support staff.
The Birmingham News reports that the state spent $12.5 million last year providing lawyers to poor defendants in the city.
State officials estimate that setting up a public defender's office could save about $3.5 million.
------ Information from: The Birmingham News, http://www.al.com/birminghamnews