Saturday, November 15, 2008

Harlow's Attorney to Resign From Conflict Counsel Pool

The Citizen's Voice is reporting that attorney Stephen Menn, a member of the court-appointed teams defending accused killers Hugo Selenski and Harlow Cuadra, gave notice Thursday that he will resign from the Luzerne County conflict counsel pool at the end of the year.

Menn, a member of the conflict pool since 1998, said last week he had grown frustrated with the system and the intense workload, which included simultaneously handling five homicide cases.

Menn, who also maintains a private practice in West Pittston and is the solicitor for Wyoming Borough, declined to comment when reached by telephone Friday and did not return telephone messages left at his office and his home later in the day.

Luzerne County District Attorney Jackie Musto Carroll said she had heard about Menn’s discontent with the system and murmurs that he was considering resigning.

“I’m sorry to hear that he did,” Musto Carroll said Friday.

Paul McGarry, the director of court administrative services, said Friday he was unaware of Menn’s resignation but that “it could be in the system somewhere” and had not yet reached his office.

President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. runs the conflict counsel system and will ultimately be responsible for accepting Menn’s resignation and hiring a replacement, McGarry said. Ciavarella did not return telephone messages Friday. The conflict counsel pool is a group of publicly funded attorneys assigned to cases when a defendant is unable to retain a private attorney and a public defender cannot be used because of a conflict of interest with another defendant or a witness.

Each of the 11 members of the pool earn an annual salary of $26,946.86 and full health benefits, according to county payroll records.

Menn, Pike, Mark Bufalino and Paul Galante are the only members of the conflict pool certified to handle death penalty cases like Selenski’s and Cuadra’s. The lead counsel on all death penalty cases must be certified under guidelines established by the state Supreme Court in 2003, Pike said.