HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Horry County Public Defender’s office has lost five attorneys in the last year to private practices, leaving only 14 for the 15th Circuit, which covers Horry and Georgetown counties.

There are other counties that are comparable in size, such as Charleston and Columbia, with regard to population, who don’t outrank us in population by that much,” said Ronald Hazzard, chief of public defenders. “I think Charleston has 37, and I believe Richland County has 41.”

One reason there have not been any recent hires is because office space is limited, though officials say they are looking to expand. Plus, even when jobs are posted, it’s been a struggle to find qualified candidates.

We would have a folder full of applicants, especially after law school,” 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said. “We will be lucky to get three or four resumes.”

Just because there is a shortage of attorneys, that doesn’t mean the Public Defender’s Office has stopped accepting cases. Hazzard said the current workload is well over the American Bar Association’s recommended average.

Pretty much everyone has over 300 active files at any given time, which is a lot,” Hazzard said. “The ABA average should be no more than 200. To put it in perspective, we are averaging a case per day for 365 days a year, for every attorney in the office.”

Hazzard also said the local office is one of the few circuits that worked throughout the pandemic. As a result, the backlog isn’t as great here as it is in other counties.