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LCO Tribe Will Soon Have It's Own Public Defender in the Courts

By Joe Morey News Editor

LCO Secretary-Treasurer Bill Trepanier recently attended a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) meeting in the Twin Cities where he requested over $300,000 in funding that would help the Tribe hire a Public Defender to represent tribal members in Sawyer County Circuit Court.

Trepanier reported to the LCO Tribal Governing Board that the funds would be used to hire the PD, a bailiff for Tribal Court, and two deputy clerks. He said the funding would pay for four positions. This would be 2024 funding.

The position for the Public Defender has now been approved by the Tribal Governing Board and not only will the PD defend LCO tribal members in Circuit Court, but also for smaller offenses and civil situations in the LCO Tribal Court.

The PD will be able to provide legal representation/ legal services for enrolled LCO Tribal Members in WI State Circuit Court(s) (e.g., litigation, negotiations); with an emphasis on defending criminal cases.

“This is so important for our membership to be represented fairly in county or tribal court,” Trepanier said. “For far too long we’ve been relying on a state-appointed public defender system that hasn’t served our people well. They’ve had a high caseload in the County court and because of that, they can’t pay attention to or serve our needs. Now with our own public defender, they will serve only our members.”

Trepanier previously served as LCO Tribal Court Commissioner before being elected to the TGB in June of 2023 and said that during his time in the court, he saw the need for a public defender and believes that LCO members will feel better about going into County court.

LCO TGB member Don Carley said he has been advocating for a public defender for many years.

“I’m hoping this will help our tribal members as it will be a huge benefit to them as they go into court in Sawyer County and here at LCO,” Carley stated. “They don’t know procedures. They’re scared when they go to court, and no one is there to look out for their interests. This will have an immediate impact on our people.”


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