By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer
Scott Cutcher, who has served as a public defender in the 5th Judicial District, is now the district’s chief.
Cutcher, among nine who applied for the chief public defender position, was the only candidate interviewed and was offered the job soon thereafter.
The Sioux City, Iowa, native is well known in the Mankato area for his work on various high-profile criminal cases, including his pending defense of Joel Munt, who is facing first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Svetlana Munt.
Cutcher takes over for Krista Jass, who was appointed as a judge in Blue Earth County District Court.
He comes into the job at a challenging time. Budget cuts during the past decade have diminished the number of public defenders available throughout the district. Caseloads, meanwhile, have gone up, Cutcher said.
“You hear people say, ‘Do more with less.’ But the reality is that you do less with less,” Cutcher said. “We’ll have to wait and see. We’ve been able to cover the counties in our district, and we’ve been doing it fairly well, but at some point, there is a breaking point.”
He’s spent most of his time dealing with cases but now estimates he’ll spend most of time running the district office.
Cutcher earned his undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota and his law degree from Hamline University in St. Paul.
He started working as a public defender in Mankato in 1992. Since coming to town, he’s had several high-profile cases, including the Munt case, the case of the man who drove his car through Wal-Mart, and many others.
“I’ll be spending a lot less time in court, which is something that’ll be very strange.”
Cutcher said his easygoing personality will show in his management style. He said he gets along well with court administration officials wherever he goes, as well as prosecutors.
For now he doesn’t plan any major changes. He’s hoping to help his attorneys keep up with caseloads — “it’s been a hurdle for what seems like forever” — and keep an eye on the possible state government shutdown.
The last time it was shut down, he said, public defense was deemed an essential service and their offices stayed open. He expects the same will happen this time if a shutdown occurs.