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Monday, June 16, 2008

A confrontation may be brewing over CHIPS cases

The Judicial Council met all day today at the MSBA convention in Duluth and made two significant decisions:

1. It voted to carve another $550,000 from the court's budget, basically by cutting 2 percent from all court operations across the board.

2. It voted to take two steps in connection with the public defender's recent decision not to represent parents in CHIPS cases: The state court administrator will advise the counties that they may be asked to pick up the tab for court-appointed counsel if they are not doing so already; and a letter will go out to all the chief judges advising them that they have several options when it comes to appointing lawyers for parents--including appointing a public defender or sending the bill to the county, which the county may decide it won't pay. However, in deference to the judge's adjudicative role, the council will not attempt to tie the trial court judge's hands. The council is aware that it may be setting the stage for a showdown on attorney funding and that a lawsuit by either the public defenders or a county may ensue. "It seems to me we have a lot of people spoiling for a fight because they want resolution from [a] court," said Court of Appeals Judge Mimi Wright.

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