Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Evers signs bill to restore raises for state public defenders

Evers signs bill to restore raises for state public defenders

Listen to this article

Gov. Tony Evers has signed a bill to restore raises for Wisconsin state public defenders.

On Monday, Gov. Tony Evers displays the signed bill to restore pay parity for state public defenders.
Gov. Tony Evers displays the signed bill that restores pay parity for state public defenders. He signed the bipartisan measure on Monday.

2021 Wisconsin Act 7 allows the Public Defender Board to provide merit-based pay raises under the assistant state public defender pay-progression plan in fiscal year 2021-22.

Evers livestreamed the bill signing on Monday. He said public defenders have continued to provide Wisconsinites with “qualified, zealous” representation, despite staffing challenges and pay disparities. The SPD lost 78 employees since March, many of whom left for better pay, Evers said.

“We can’t make the robust, critical changes needed to reform our criminal-justice system in Wisconsin if our public defenders are overworked, understaffed and undervalued,” Evers said.

Kelli Thompson, State Public Defender, joined the broadcast by Zoom and thanked the governor for signing the bill. She said restoring funding is critical to keeping SPD positions staffed, especially in rural areas of the state.

Gov. Tony Evers listens as Kelli Thompson, State Public Defender, explains the impact of restoring pay parity for state public defenders. Evers signed a bill to restore the raises on Monday.
Gov. Tony Evers listens as Kelli Thompson, State Public Defender, explains the impact of restoring pay parity for state public defenders. Evers signed a bill to restore the raises on Monday.

“The unanimous support of the Legislature and your signature today, Gov. Evers, not only means so much to our staff, but will have such a significant impact in ensuring that the criminal-justice system is not brought to a standstill due to a lack of counsel,” Thompson said.

The pay discrepancy between state public defenders and prosecutors started with the state’s 2019-21 budget. Lawmakers passed a budget that provided merit-based pay progression to prosecutors, but not public defenders.

The SPD will fund the raises in fiscal year 2021-22 with its own budget. The office has extra money because of the vacant public defender positions. Evers’ office said the 2021-23 budget continues the pay progression in each year of the biennium.

Polls

What kind of stories do you want to read more of?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Legal News

See All Legal News

Case Digests

Sea all WLJ People

Opinion Digests