MERCER — Even if not all of his clients are acquitted, one of the best parts of Mercer County Public Defender Dana Flick’s job is being able to help people — most of whom are just regular people who have made a mistake.
“You’re helping someone out during the most difficult situation in their life,” Flick said.
His mentor and the former Mercer County Public Defender, Raymond Bogaty, agreed that depending on the situation, the public defender may be the only supportive person a client has.
“They need to know that someone is on their side and that someone cares about them,” Bogaty said.
Bogaty still maintains a general practice in Grove City, but he retired from the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office earlier this year on Jan. 3. However, Bogaty can still be sometimes found at the office where he spent 39 years, offering advice or guidance he’s attained from those years of service.
“It’s a good office. We’ve got a good staff here,” he said.
Bogaty worked in the public defender’s office in Pittsburgh for about two and a half years before he came to Mercer County. Eventually he moved to the Mercer County area and took a position at the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office in 1981, where he stayed until his retirement.
“I’ve probably told 100 people, sometimes good people do bad things and sometimes bad people do good things, so it’s all relative,” Bogaty said.
Unlike Bogaty, Flick graduated from the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University in 2000 and spent a couple years working as a law clerk for Judge Robert Dobson until he came to the Mercer County Public Defender’s Office in 2002.
Flick said much of the job was researching cases and presenting information to the judges.
Though the work was different, Flick said his time as a law clerk provided the necessary experience to help him as a public defender. This included researching different situations, as well as seeing how judges tended to apply the law or review cases.
“You’re acting as an attorney, but you’re not actually arguing before the court,” Flick said.
An important part of being a public defender involves gaining the client’s trust, which Flick said can be difficult since clients are often at their most vulnerable and may feel distrustful toward the legal system. Mercer County being a “smaller county” also helps, so helping one client can help spread the word to others that the public defenders will represent their clients fairly.
“We’ve had three generations of the same family that we’ve represented,” he said.
In some cases, the public defenders were called out to the scenes of homicides by police departments or the district attorney. More often though, Bogaty said representing a client involves going out to the clients at home or interviewing a client’s family or associates, taking him from rural areas to urban complexes.
“I’ve been all throughout the county over the years, but I’ve never felt in danger or feared for my safety,” Bogaty said.