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Public has until May 1 to weigh in on pay increase for court-appointed lawyers

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has extended the deadline for submitting written comments on a petition that proposes increasing the pay for private lawyers appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants.

The petition, which was filed by various law professors, attorneys and the state’s bar association for criminal-defense lawyers, calls for increasing to $100 the hour the rate paid to lawyers who are appointed by the courts to represent those sorts of defendants. The rate would be tied to the consumer-price index.

The petition would also have the justices declare unreasonable any compensation rate for attorneys appointed by the Wisconsin State Public Defender if the rate were below the rate set for court-appointed lawyers.

That part of the request has stirred up more controvery because it pressures state lawmakers into raising the private-bar rate for SPD-appointed attorneys to at least $100 an hour and prohibits the SPD from entering flat-rate contracts. Those attorneys are now paid $40 an hour, one of the lowest rates in the country.

The SPD and other entities have been asking lawmakers for a private bar-rate increase every biennium since 1995 but so far have not been successful.

In June, the high court hesitantly voted to solicit comments from the public and discuss the matter in a public hearing. That hearing is now scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. May 16 in the Supreme Court Hearing Room.

The public comment period was originally end on April 4. The justices’ order issued Wednesday extends that deadline to May 1.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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