Local News

August 23, 2007

Six come aboard staff at public defender’s office

After living on the West Coast supporting himself as a musician, Memphis, Tenn., native Andy Cohen decided he wanted to practice law.

Cohen is one of five new attorneys in the public defender’s office that serves Whitfield and Murray counties. Four, including Cohen, are waiting to see if they passed the bar.

Cohen said he has lived all around the country, including California and Seattle, Wash.

“I was a musician for a long time (playing) all kinds of music,” he said. “I was a guitar player and a singer. I had a lot of fun.

“I played a lot of rock, blues, country — I did pretty much everything except rap music,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of need for guitar in rap.”

After considering using his background as an English major to break into journalism, he decided to pursue law school instead.

So far Cohen has been helping out with bond hearings, probation revocations and other smaller issues. The Mercer Law School graduate is anxious to get into the courtroom.

“I’m real interested in criminal law and I’m interested in just getting to try a case, period,” he said.

Being a defense attorney is all he wants to do.

“I have no interest in suing anyone,” Cohen said. “It just does not appeal to me.”

The public defender’s office saw an exodus of attorneys earlier this year when Mike McCarthy, who has been with the office since it opened in January 2005, moved up to chief public defender from interim public defender to replace Bentley Adams, who took a job in Atlanta. The new attorneys are replacements, not additional attorneys in the office. Nine attorneys provide defense for indigent clients in Whitfield and Murray counties.

“They were filling vacancies,” McCarthy said. “We had five (attorneys) leave between January and June. It’s been a rough several months.”

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