My name is Lindsey Blake, and I am the former Chief Deputy Prosecutor for Teton County and the incoming Fremont County Prosecutor. I watched the Teton Valley News forum on September 30, and I have significant concerns about certain statements made by candidate Alex Sosa. In particular, I am concerned about Mr. Sosa’s claim that he plans to handle both the criminal and civil caseload of the office (minus serious lawsuits against the county) in-house. The Teton County Prosecutor’s Office has only three attorney positions, with one being only a part-time position. From my experience working in Teton County, it requires approximately 80 hours a week to handle just the criminal caseload in the office, and it requires at least another 50 to handle the bare minimum civil advisory work (meaning responding to questions and providing advice to the County Commissioners and other elected officials). This doesn’t include defending lawsuits against the county, or other things that Mr. Sosa has proposed to do if elected, such as act as legal counsel for all county employees or attend County Commissioner and City Council meetings. The idea that 2.5 attorneys could handle both the criminal and civil caseload of the office in-house, particularly doing all the things Mr. Sosa is promising, is completely unrealistic. It is my firm belief that attempting this would almost certainly lead to mistakes, and quite possibly lawsuits against the county.
On the other hand, I believe that the plan proposed by candidate Bailey Smith – to handle the criminal caseload and certain time-sensitive civil matters in house while working with outside counsel on other civil matters – is realistic and achievable. For reference, most small counties in Idaho outsource their civil work – either to outside counsel or a part-time attorney that agrees to dedicate a certain number of hours to the county each week – so this isn’t a novel idea. Further, Ms. Smith’s plan is fiscally responsible. To competently handle all the civil work that Mr. Sosa proposes, I believe it would require the county to hire at least one additional full time attorney (and civil deputy positions almost always require high salaries because most experienced civil lawyers would rather be in private practice). In contrast, there are many experienced civil attorneys who will agree to work as outside counsel at reduced rates to perform the civil work needed by small counties. Thus, in my view, Ms. Smith’s plan for managing the Prosecutor’s Office is far superior to that proposed by Mr. Sosa. I care deeply about Teton County, and I hope that voters consider this when casting their votes this November.
St. Anthony, Idaho