Ed Treacy: more shenanigans; Cook: "no comment"

Dateline: Thu 21 Feb 2008

The Marion County public defenders' office has been in the news following the resignation of its longtime boss David Cook, who will leave the agency at the end of March. Cook, some say, was muscled out by lobbyist and former Marion County Dem chairman Ed Treacy. But Cook is not the only one on Treacy's hit list.

"I used to be on that board," said veteran Indianapolis attorney David Hennessy, speaking of serving on the board that oversees the Marion County Public Defender Agency.

"He (Treacy) wanted on that board. He took my spot. Then, when he went on, he wanted them (the board) to make him chairman."

Treacy has not been named chairman, but he did persuade the board to replace Jon Bailey in that role. That's a shame, added Hennessy, who himself has served twice as chairman of the Indiana Public Defender Council board, a state organization. Hennessy has been a member since of that state group since 1984.

Bailey has been "very good on behalf of the agency...it is sad he got removed for pure political reasons."

So what's the hidden agenda? One theory is that Treacy is cherry-picking enemies on behalf of his wife, Judge Becky Pierson-Treacy. Apparently some public defenders have challenged her decisions in court, which led to Treacy's exercising his heavy hand. Treacy, for the record, is not an attorney.

Another scenario is that the agency itself is no longer a bit player financially, and its success has drawn political attention. "No one really cared about it until it got a significant budget," explained Hennessy. "Then everyone wants to hit it. The idea is 'We need it (control) within our party.'"

Years ago, there were no public defenders' offices in Indiana; the agency wasn't created in Marion County until l993. In his 2005 annual report, Cook wrote about the increased growth and strength of the office:

"The Marion County Public Defender Agency has taken several major steps forward in the year 2005. The professional attorney staff, support and administrative staff are the strongest since the organization was conceived in 1993."

Other sources say that Cook may be a victim of his own hard work. A Republican and a former prosecutor, he took over some 13 years ago when Steve Goldsmith was mayor; he is the second person to have led the office. The agency has a noble mission, as is quoted in the 2005 report: "THERE CAN BE NO EQUAL JUSTICE WHEN THE KIND OF TRIAL A MAN GETS DEPENDS ON THE AMOUNT OF MONEY HE HAS," wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in 1956.

But Cook, over time, "got to be a bureaucrat," said another source, who indicated there were politics inside the agency as well. "Power always has its costs."

"David took some real beatings," amplified Hennessy.

On an interesting side note, Hennessy recalls what it was like to do public defender work back in the days when judges would appoint a small pool of lawyers to the task. This was in the 1980s.

"I remember one time when I had a two-day trial and a three-day trial. I did both, and I got paid $100," says Hennessy, who still sees the nobility of the calling. Hennessy won both trials.

But now the public defenders agency is "hot." Or at least, it is in Treacy's sights.

Cook is not retiring; he will practice immigration law with the law firm of Paul Gresk and Catherine Singleton.

He has "no comment" about his resignation regarding the role Treacy played.

For more regarding this story, see The Indiana Lawyer.



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