NORRISTOWN — A preliminary report evaluating Montgomery County’s Public Defender Office has been released, with a town hall to discuss the findings slated for Wednesday.

“The preliminary report provides specific guidance and recommendations for implementing best practices for the governance and operation of the county’s office of the public defender,” said Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Valerie Arkoosh.

Strengthening the Office of the Montco Public Defender” is available online for review.

Temple University Beasley School of Law’s Sheller Center for Social Justice officials will hold a virtual information session from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, which will cover key findings from the report, and participants will have the opportunity to submit questions.

“This will then be included as part of the final report that the commissioners will receive,” Arkoosh said. “We look forward to hearing the public feedback on this report, and taking actions on the recommendations that fall within the commission’s purview once the report is finalized.”

Elected leaders had awarded a $30,000 contract with the university in July 2020 for research and consulting services to review the existing county department.

The agreement initially stemmed from the Feb. 25, 2020 ouster of Chief Public Defender Dean M. Beer and Deputy Chief Public Defender Keisha Hudson. The two were initially appointed by the county’s elected leaders, and their firing sparked overwhelming outcry.

A demonstration was held outside of the Montgomery County Courthouse prior to the March 5, 2020 Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting. The contention later spilled into a lengthy public comment where people came out in droves and vocally opposed the decision.

“As we discussed at our board meeting on March 5, I am committed to finding a way for the public defender's office to be independent,” Arkoosh said in July 2020.

To register for Wednesday's town hall, and learn more about the report, visit law.temple.edu/csj.

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Rachel Ravina is a journalist covering news and lifestyle features in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Blue Bell and graduated from Penn State. She's also a news enthusiast who is passionate about covering topics people want to read.

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