In July 2011, the office announced plans to cut 30 independent contractors and 12 temporary employees, about half of that total being lawyers. At the same time, a proposal was announced to shed more than 30 full-time positions through layoffs and attrition.
"If the caseloads are too big, our people cannot spend the time they need to spend on a case and with their clients,'' Deputy Chief Public Defender Brian Carlow said at the time. "Our biggest initial concern is cases not moving as quickly as they can when people are locked up.''
Although lost positions have been replaced in some judicial districts, Gerety said things have not improved in Danbury. He was upset when he learned late last year that one of Danbury's public defenders would be transferred full time to juvenile court. "I had hoped he would be replaced," Gerety said. But Gerety found out around Christmastime that would not be the case.
In bigger judicial districts, there are different courthouses for major crimes and less serious offenses. But in Danbury, both are tried in one courthouse, requiring Gerety and his lawyers to handle all types of cases.
It's difficult to be "doing a motor vehicle case and two home invasions" right in a row, said Gerety. "I can't do either justice."
Gerety focused on major cases in Bridgeport, where he worked for two decades before coming to head up the Danbury office. He notes that he has been involved in 27 murder trials. "I spent my whole career trying big cases. I miss the focus of the serious cases. That's what I'm good at," Gerety said. "I find it easier to do some serious case than a dozen different minor cases."
Gerety said he is not worried solely about his own staff. He said statewide, attempts to fill vacancies at regional public defenders' offices have been delayed or denied.
But the state's chief public defender, Susan O. Storey, does not agree that defendants' legal rights are in jeopardy in Danbury or anywhere else. "The [Danbury] office will absolutely be resourced to meet their needs," Storey said. "I'm sorry to see Miles go. I'm sure that we'll find a person with lots of experience to head that office."
Storey added that she has access to the caseload statistics of every public defender and reviews it whenever there is an opening. When a replacement for Gerety is found, she will discuss Danbury staffing needs with that person. "If that office needs more help, that office will get it," Storey said.
Statewide, she said, if the proposed budget is approved, the public defenders' offices will be fine. "Everybody needs to be careful to use their resources wisely," Storey said.