By Michael P. Ehline, Esq. – The court system is under attack. In Los Angeles civil cases, attorneys, are expected pay for a court of record, judges are not allowed to accept county funds as supplemental pay, many govt and private firms across the U.S., are expected to look into whether outsourcing of some public defense cases can save money.
Will Outsourcing Help The Disadvantaged?
The need for fairly defending low-income defendants, and paying enough lawyers to provide representation has risen. Out-side counsel for low-income defendants, when there are multiple conflicts of interest can actually increase the costs. Multiple conflicts include situations where a there is a divorce with custody issues or a criminal case which has multiple defendants. The County takes two cases, with the remainder being assigned to a private lawyer.
In some states, like New York, the state mandate says that the private lawyers, who are assigned cases are to be paid $75 an hour, even though New York itself does not provide funding for local lawyer assigned cases. (See here.) These costs could easily skyrocket it seems. Also, a dedicated public defender usually has years of templates, case law and arguments a $75 an hour lawyer may have. Of course one could get lucky and hire a retired PD. So this remains to be seen whether or not the disadvantaged could be helped or not.
Safeguards to Prevent Overbilling
If certain safeguards that will prevent private lawyers from overbilling are put into place, there is less of a chance that it will take place. Time spent defending cases and the private attorneys fees must be documented and approved by a designated trustee, for example. While some counties hire outside legal firms to handle excess conflicts, it is not clear if it would save the county money. Let’s see what happens here and we will keep you updated as these mandates evolve.