The Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office is again asking the state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker to increase the pay rate for private bar attorneys appointed to take cases for the agency.
In budget documents submitted this week, the SPD requested increasing the private bar rate to $70 an hour starting July 1. Doing so would cost more than $32 million over the two years covered by the state’s next budget.
The current rate is $40 an hour.
The rate paid to private bar attorneys who take SPD appointments has not increased since 1992. Private attorneys who handle cases in federal district courts, in comparison, get $140 an hour in non-capital cases.
In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered that the rate paid to attorneys appointed by judges be increased from $70 an hour to $100 an hour but chose to leave the private bar rate for SPD appointments up to the Legislature.
State Public Defender Kelli Thompson referred to the court’s decision in her letter accompanying her department’s budget request.
“For many years, this issue was contained to the SPD or the justice system,” she wrote. “However, the critical need to raise the reimbursement rate will become both a state government and a county taxpayer issue starting in early 2020. Without an adjustment in this biennial state budget, a significant cost will shift to individual counties throughout Wisconsin.”
The SPD is also asking that a tuition-reimbursement program be established for certain private bar attorneys. The change would cost the state $500,00 over the course of two years. The SPD had made a similar proposal in its previous biennial budget request.
The SPD is also:
The requests are just a starting point in the state’s budget process. Gov. Scott Walker will review them and release his own budget proposal early next year. The proposals will then move on to the state Legislature. Follow @erikastrebel