CHATTANOOGA, TN. (Times Free Press) -- Forty-four private attorneys have offered to represent criminal defendants for free in place of the public defender's office, which has asked a local judge to recuse himself.

On Friday, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman assigned at least five cases that normally would have gone to the public defender's office to private attorneys who offered to take them pro bono, or free of charge.

Bill Speek and Clancy Covert, two of the attorneys who took cases Friday, said indigent defendants who normally would be appointed an attorney from the public defender's office are having to wait until recusal motions are resolved before anything can happen with their cases. In some instances, defendants with misdemeanor charges could serve more time in custody awaiting these resolutions than they would after an agreement and guilty plea, Speek said.

Read more on the story from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.