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Attorney fights for case appointments

Attorney fights for case appointments

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A Milwaukee attorney wants a court to overturn his removal from the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s list of lawyers who take private bar case appointments.

James Connolly, of Connolly Law Offices LLC, on Monday filed a petition for judicial review in Milwaukee County Circuit Court against the SPD board of directors after it ruled earlier this year to decertify him because he had consistently submitted excessive reimbursement bills.

But, according to the petition, Connolly claimed the board has no evidence his bills are unreasonable when compared to other private bar appointees. He also claimed he was denied due process when appealing the decertification to an appointed hearing examiner.

According to Connolly’s petition, Deborah Smith, director of the SPD Assigned Counsel Division, arbitrarily reduced his submitted bills for at least four cases without providing evidence the amounts were too high.

In a memo included in the petition from Smith to State Public Defender Kelli Thompson recommending the decertification, Smith indicated Connolly had been warned several times since 2006 about the high amounts of his bills.

According to the memo, Connolly disregarded the warning, and Smith made him an offer to pay two allegedly excessive 2010 bills in full if the attorney would remove himself from the appointment list. Connolly did not respond, according to the memo.

Thompson authorized the decertification on July 6, 2011, and Connolly appealed to the State Public Defender board, which upheld the decision.

Randy Kraft, SPD public information officer, said the agency is reviewing the petition. He declined to comment further on the allegations.

Connolly could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the petition, he began taking SPD appointments in 1992 but let his certification lapse after several years. He re-applied in 2003 and handled approximately 40 cases between then and 2011.

Private attorneys are paid $40 per hour by the SPD for court time.

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