The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution orders that all criminal defendants have the right to defense counsel. But not all criminal defendants can afford to pay a lawyer. In order to provide indigent defendants with counsel and a fair trial, the state provides lawyers for those too poor to pay.
In West Virginia, non-profit public defender corporations, each with a board of directors, contracts with the state to handle indigent cases in designated circuits. These corporations employ legal and support staff to handle its indigent case load. When fully staffed, these corporations employ 116 attorneys and 74 staff employees.
In the 11th Judicial Circuit, encompassing Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties, a public defender office with a total of four attorneys is located in Lewisburg. One attorney from that office is assigned to Pocahontas County.
Clint Carte, originally from Oak Hill, was assigned as Assistant Public Defender for Pocahontas County on June 1. Carte graduated from Oak Hill High School and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. Following graduation from the West Virginia University School of Law, Carte worked as a staff assistant to Senator Jay Rockefeller for two years. He has also worked as legislative assistant to Congresswoman Linda T. Sanchez, of California; special assistant at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and an election protection fellow with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights.
Carte said he enjoyed working for Rockefeller, who is retiring at the end of this year.
“He was fantastic,” said Carte. “He’s had a tremendous public service career for West Virginia. I’m happy that he’s getting his rest, but I’m certainly sad that we’re going to lose him.”
At Homeland Security, Carte handled various types of cases.
“I was in the general counsel’s office,” he said. “I did some employment law cases. It’s the third largest agency, so you see a little bit of everything. I worked a lot on immigration matters, aviation security and border security.”
During law school, the new public defender worked for a local attorney.
“I actually worked one summer for Roger Forman, the attorney over in Buckeye,” he said. “He’s the one who let me know this job was open.”
Carte was working for a friend’s company in Washington, D.C., when he applied for the public defender job.
“I was thrilled when I got the job,” he said. “I went and interviewed with Josh [Edwards] and DeWitt [Daniell]. Josh was public defender here for about three years before he went to Lewisburg. I just felt a real connection to them.”
Carte has a longstanding connection to Pocahontas County.
“I was excited that the opportunity was here in this county, because I’ve been coming here for years,” he said. “My grandfather had a place in Seebert that he got in the ’50s. My dad would come here for years when he was little and he passed that on to me.”
The attorney moved into his family’s cabin on the Greenbrier River. He said he wants people to know there is a public defender in Pocahontas County.
“My main goal is just to make sure that people know that there is a public defender here, working full- time,” he said. “We’ve had this office here for a long time, but at various points in time, sometimes for logistics reasons, there hasn’t been an attorney stationed there. I think it’s important for people to know there’s an attorney there full-time.”
Carte said officials at the courthouse have been very helpful.
“I received a very warm welcome at the prosecutor’s office,” he said. “They’re very helpful and very open with people and just want to make sure that everybody gets a fair shake. That goes for the whole courthouse. I found people very willing to take the time to explain, not only the way things work, generally, but the way things might vary in this county. One of the best things is when people put you in touch with someone else who can help you. I really feel confident calling the clerk’s office, calling the prosecutor – they’ll send you in the right direction.”
The new public defender is a big sports fan.
“I played and refereed a lot of soccer in West Virginia,” he said. “I grew up doing that. I’m hoping to do that a little bit more. I really like soccer a lot, and I’m really excited about watching this World Cup.”
Carte also enjoys kayaking, fishing, baseball and football. He said he looks forward to seeing local school sports teams in action.