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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Public defenders face losing 61 more lawyers

The public defenders in Minnesota have been hit hard by the Legislature which cut their budget by $1.5 million dollars for FY 2009. It looks as if a serious number of attorneys will lose their jobs, and that doesn’t bode well for any judges or litigants—there will be systemic delays throughout the court system if the criminal calendar gets backed up.

In a press release issued today, the Board of Public Defense said that by the start of the fiscal year the board will have 98 fewer attorneys than it should and a $4.7 million deficit. It now has 19 vacant attorney positions, 18 jobs that have been authorized but not filled, and 17 staff vacancies. The board said another 61 FTE attorney positions will have to be eliminated. That amounts to 14.5 percent of the 421 FTE attorneys now employed. Lawyers in private law firms should consider how they would cope with losing 14 percent of their lawyers.


Bitter said...

Its been half a decade since we added a new law school, we need a new one. Articles like this show that there is a huge demand for lawyers. No question about it, the law is a great profession. While were at it, let's jack up tuition 20%, Dean Wippman.

Anonymous said...

There is something to the idea that we have an overabundance of lawyers but an inability to provide enough public defenders. I suspect it would be cheaper for the state to have contracts with private attorneys or firms rather than to hire PDs directly, for the same reason that in various areas it is cheaper for the government to contract than to hire directly. Government employees generally have pretty 'cushy' benefits and pensions whereas private sector (especially small firm and solo lawyers) are pretty lean. So perhaps the PD's office should be pared down to some contract administrators and outsource the whole thing. You might end up with more attorneys to represent the clients at lower cost.

Anonymous said...

Yep, if we drop PD's all over the state, we'll definitely get more lawyers representing indigent clients at a cheaper price.

Up front price only, of course.

Then we'll see the appeals based on malpractice, we'll see defendants kicked free due to speedy-trial demands that can't be met, we'll see the courts completely clogged when the PD's (who know the systems and judges and understand how to competently represent too many clients in too many courtrooms at the same time every day) are replaced with contract people who can't or won't simply spend the entire day traipsing from courtroom to courtroom handling the sentencing here, the first appearance over across the street, the five pre-trials/pleas/continuances with Judge Doe, the interviews of new clients in the jail . . .

Maybe take some money from city or county attorney offices to even out the gap?