Assembly considers increase for public defendersThe state Assembly will vote today on a bill that will change the income eligibility guidelines for people seeking a public defender to represent them in court. The current poverty limit hasn't been changed since 1986.
By: Gil Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The state Assembly will vote today on a bill that will change the income eligibility guidelines for people seeking a public defender to represent them in court. The current poverty limit hasn't been changed since 1986.
The Public Defender's office and a coalition of attorneys have been trying for more than a decade to change the poverty guidelines that determine how poor someone has to be to have the state pay to defend you in court.
The cost to tax payers has always been the stumbling block that has prevented the change from happening. But this time, Mike Tobin of the Public Defender’s office says there appears to be enough support to pass the bill. He says the public defender guidelines are so unrealistic, that virtually all judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys understand it really doesn’t mean that someone can afford to hire a lawyer when they fail to qualify for public defenders, so the counties are required to have 72 mini public defender programs.
Changing the guidelines will save the counties about $6 million they are spending now to appoint attorneys for people who don’t meet the state guidelines. That will be picked up by state taxpayers. But Tobin says it will make the system more efficient and end up saving tax payer money in the long run. Once the Assembly votes on the bill it will move on to the state Senate where supporters expect it to be approved.