County commissioners fill vacant Indigent Defense Panel position

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Riley County commissioners chose a replacement for the vacant seat on their Indigent Defense Panel.

The panel is comprised of six attorneys who act as independent contractors on behalf of the county. One of the members will resign later this month, leaving a vacant seat.

Two candidates came before the commission to apply for the position; Michael Hinkin and Chris Biggs. The panel usually suggests one candidate to the commission, but could not decide between the two.

Hinkin has a background in criminal defense work working for Clark and Platt Law Firm here in Manhattan.  He currently runs his own practice.

“I’d say 90% of my practice has been in criminal defense work,” says Hinkin, “I have a passion for it and I think it’s important that every defendant has competent representation.”

Hinkin wants to change the public’s perception of indigent clients and attorneys, whom typically get a bad reputation. He has also been engaged with the community and was recently the president of the board for the Manhattan Emergency Shelter.

“Overall I think this is an important panel and I would like to be a part of it,” says Hinkin.

The other candidate, Biggs, served as the state’s 30th secretary of state and has also been a prosecutor in Geary County.  He is currently an attorney at Knopp and Biggs in Manhattan.

“I have had experience with the appointed bar and also being involved with several misdemeanor cases,” says Biggs.

The reason Biggs wants to serve on the panel is because, according to him, he enjoys doing what he does as an attorney and wants to spend more time in the courtroom. He has also worked with indigent clients before.

After hearing from both candidates, Counselor Clancy Holeman echoed the panel’s feeling to the commission that both candidates are highly qualified.

“I think the indication is both from the applicants’ background and the recommendation of the panel, that either would be a good choice, but the decision falls on you to make,” says Holeman, “There’s no way to lose with who you select.”

County Commissioner John Ford helped the commission come up with the answer to this difficult choice.  He chose to go with Hinkin based on his criminal defense work background and the opportunity to have a more youthful approach.

The commissioners agreed with Ford and went with Hinkin to fill the vacant spot on the panel.

Commissioners also received an update on the Peach Grove Fire Station during their meeting on Thursday.

During a previous meeting, Emergency Management Director Pat Collins says the station was in danger of closing due to a lack of volunteers. The department put out a media release on what would happen if they didn’t get more volunteers.

Since then, Collins says they have brought on five people with one more still needing to be interviewed.  They have already begun training with those hired.  He says he is feeling better and the future is looking good.

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