Judge removes court-appointed attorney for Commissioner Lyman

It is back to the drawing board for a legal defense for San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman after a federal judge removed his court-appointed attorney on December 23.
Federal Magistrate Judge Evelyn Furse ruled that Lyman was not eligible for his court-appointed attorney. The attorney had been assigned to the case after an October 17 initial hearing.
Lyman, and three other San Juan County residents, each face two federal misdemeanor charges for their role in the May 10, 2014 protest in Recapture Canyon.
The event was organized to protest the 2007 closure of Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles by the Bureau of Land Management. Approximately 100 vehicles went into a closed portion of the canyon during the protest.
Lyman, and the other three defendants, were all assigned court-appointed attorneys, which are generally reserved for those who do not have the financial means to pay for their own defense.
Prosecuting attorneys argued that Lyman, a Certified Public Accountant, has the ability to pay for his own defense. The federal judge agreed and ruled that Lyman should secure a private attorney and pay the fees for the work completed by the court-appointed attorney. The attorney had spent 50 hours working on the case.
Afterwards, Lyman said, “I have expressed my respect for the decisions of the Federal court. In October, when the court assigned me an attorney from the Federal Defenders Office, I questioned the Judge on my appointment and my qualification for a public defender.
“The judge explained that I would be required to pay for these services based on my financial ability. I have never attempted to get ‘free’ legal counsel, or to game the system.
“For two months I have worked closely with my attorneys to come to an understanding of the issues surrounding my case, i.e. the county road, the right-of-way, the boundaries of the BLM closure, the history of the Trail in Recapture Canyon, and the event on May 10, 2014, which was a community effort designed to bring attention to the breakdown in process.
“Now the court, at the urging of the prosecuting attorney, has ordered a termination of that relationship. I was disappointed by the decision, not from a financial perspective, but because it is a setback to my case and the cases of those who are co defendants.”

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