Cochise County Public Defender Eugene Marquez sits in his Bisbee office last week.

BISBEE — Hailing from Tucson, seasoned attorney Eugene Marquez wanted to share his law acumen with Cochise County. So, he became the public defender.

Marquez’s arrival in September couldn’t have happened at a better time. A few months ago, there was a shortage of defense attorneys at the courthouse. Since his hiring, Marquez’s office is now fully staffed and there’s a few new legal faces showing up in daily court proceedings.

Marquez recently answered a few questions for the Herald/Review regarding his plans for the office and why defense attorneys are so crucial to the legal system, among other issues.

Herald/Review: What brought you to the Cochise County Public Defender’s Office?

Eugene Marquez: Cochise County was looking for an experienced trial attorney committed to providing high-quality legal representation to the residents of the county. After 25 years as a busy trial attorney in state and federal courts, and later as an appellate attorney, I felt it was a great opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with others.

H/R: What attracted you to the law?

EM: The law is always a challenge, both emotionally and intellectually. In criminal law, lawyers are always dealing with others’ problems such as addictions, mental illnesses, and homelessness and poverty. A large percentage of our criminal justice system is populated with such persons and often they need help, not always incarceration. As a society, it is important we address these issues.

H/R: Why an attorney for the defense?

EM: Our country has one of the best legal systems in the world, particularly the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendments to the United States Constitution. These rights must be exercised and vigorously protected in order for them to have meaning. Our job in the Public Defender’s Office is to defend and protect these rights.

H/R: Talk about some of the plans you have for the PD’s Office.

EM: As mentioned before, a large population of persons charged with crimes have serious mental and social disabilities that need to be addressed professionally. This will lead to them having less problems in the future. To this end, I’d like our office to develop a stronger network of available and ready resources where we can refer our clients. I firmly believe that when we are able to address these underlying problems, the criminal justice system will be improved.

H/R: Is the office now fully staffed?

EM: We are now fully staffed.

H/R: We interviewed Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson recently regarding the lack of defense attorneys at the courthouse. One of the main issues was that salaries were not competitive enough. Has that issue been resolved and how many new attorneys have come on board?

EM: I believe it has been resolved. The Public Defender’s Office has recently hired two highly experienced lawyers. Both bring a wealth of experience which will benefit our clients and will help make the criminal courts run more smoothly. Both lawyers have made commitments to living in Cochise County.

H/R: Can you tell me what the average caseload is per attorney in your office?

EM: It ranges from 35 to 45 cases, depending on the complexity of the case loads.

H/R: Where are you from?

EM: I was born and raised in Tucson. I grew up and attended St. John’s Catholic in south Tucson and later attended Salpointe Catholic High School and then onto the University of Arizona. I graduated law school at Arizona State University. My grandfather was from the Patagonia area, and I spent a large amount of my childhood there.

H/R: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

EM: My passion is hot yoga. One of my goals (if I can find the time) will be to eventually set up a studio and teach yoga in the Bisbee area. I find it particularly exciting to see how it is able to transform the lives of the elderly and the ill.