LOCKPORT - Niagara County's only full-time public defender is resigning at the end of the year to become the confidential law clerk to County Judge Sara Sheldon.
Michael E. Benedict of Lockport will succeed District Attorney-elect Caroline A. Wojtaszek in the clerkship. Wojtaszek was elected DA without opposition on Nov. 8.
Benedict has specialized in felony cases during his eight years in the Public Defender's Office, but criminal cases will be off the table for him in 2017, as the state Office of Court Administration has ruled Sheldon can't handle such cases for a year to avoid conflicts of interest with Wojtaszek's new position as the county's top prosecutor. Sheldon will spend the year working mostly on civil cases.
"I think it would be nice to go to different aspect of the law, the decision side rather than the advocacy," Benedict said. He said he expects a state salary of about $102,000 a year, a major increase from his county pay of about $57,000.