ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Court-appointed attorneys say they need more money

Criminal defense attorneys want the state Supreme Court to hike the pay for lawyers appointed to represent defendants who can't afford to hire their own. But the justices say that's the job of the legislature.

Criminal defense attorneys want the state Supreme Court to hike the pay for lawyers appointed to represent defendants who can't afford to hire their own. But the justices say that's the job of the legislature.

Defense attorneys say the current $40 an hour rate for court-appointed attorneys isn't enough to buy a quality lawyer and that means poor defendants aren't getting the adequate defense the U.S. constitution requires.

Madison attorney John Skilton told the court the constitutional requirement of providing equal justice under the law means a defense attorney should get paid a fair wage. He says attorneys can't conduct "an appropriate defense" at $40 an hour.

"This is qualitative justice that we're talking about," he said.

The proposed change would set the rate at $80 an hour and tie it to the consumer price index to be increased annually. County clerks of court say that would cost as much as $14 million more a year.

ADVERTISEMENT

Justice David Prosser says given the current political climate, even if the court proposes the increase the legislature is not likely to approve it.

"I am a little troubled by good people making an honorable case without any concrete plan except, 'Good justices ... go and do it'," he says.

Justice Anne Walsh Bradley agrees. She says if she asked a county administrator to pick up the tab for a higher hourly rate for attorneys, he wouldn't be sympathetic.

Legislators have consistently refused to raise the appointed attorney rate, but defense lawyers say the court has a responsibility as the third branch of government to demand that they do it.

Related Topics: CRIME
What To Read Next