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Eau Claire-native George named new head of federal defenders

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Eau Claire-native Andrea K. George is the new executive director of the team of attorneys representing indigent crime suspects in federal court in Spokane and northern Idaho.

George has replaced Roger Peven as head of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, a job that was advertised with a salary of $155,000 a year.

The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday that Peven was a finalist to retain his job. But the board that oversees the public defenders chose George, 50, who works in the office that serves the same function in federal court in Minnesota

“I always felt when I was the senior litigator in District of Minnesota that I had the greatest job in the whole world,” George said. “I feel when I am fully comfortable with every aspect of this job I, too, will feel this is the best job in the entire world.”

The search began last year after the board decided to take a different direction in how the office, which includes more than 30 attorneys, is managed.

Jeffry Finer, the immediate past president of the board, has said the search was not related to a January 2010 lawsuit filed by three former office attorneys who questioned Peven’s management style.

“Roger Peven is amongst the best attorneys in the area,” Finer said.

But, Finer added, “The skill set for being a trial lawyer may be different than administration.”

Peven, 62, most recently led the team of defense attorneys appointed to represent Kevin W. Harpham, 37, who admitted leaving a bomb along the route of the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March in downtown Spokane.

He said he has met George and wishes her the best.

“I’m proud of my administration over the years,” said Peven, who was director since 2002. Before that, Peven had worked as a federal defender since 1992.

George grew up in Eau Claire before attending the University of Wisconsin. She earned her law degree from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., in 1989, the same year she started working as a federal defender.

“It is incredibly important work to defend those who are in most need of the best lawyers,” she said. “Those who are charged in federal court face tremendous odds. They face huge sentences and the government has invested a lot of time investigating the cases before we even get them.”

Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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