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.