Wednesday, December 5th, 2007
Court appointed lawyers may get raise
By Pat Royse
Mercer County commissioners are considering raising hourly fees paid to court appointed attorneys by $10.
The pay rate for court appointed defense attorneys of indigent individuals has not been increased since April 1999. The request for the raise was made by Attorney Lou Schiavone, on behalf of the Mercer County Bar Association.
Reimbursement for assigned council services is now $55 per hour for time in court and $50 per hour for time out of court. If approved, the hourly rate for attorneys would be $65 per hour for in-court time and $60 for hours required for other legal services.
The proposed resolution also caps the amount that can be spent by the courts based on the seriousness of the charges.
For charges of capital crimes with specifications - where the death penalty or life imprisonment could be imposed - the court would cap payable fees at $40,000 for two defense attorneys. For aggravated murder without specifications, the defense could get fees of no more than $10,500 for one attorney or $13,000 for two.
Fees for defending a murder charge would be capped at $6,500, felonies at $4,000, misdemeanors (degrees 1-4) at $1,000, parole or probation and contempt of court at $400.
In juvenile proceedings, the cap for both representation on juvenile offense charges and for guardian ad litem (guardian for the purposes of the lawsuit, usually involving minors or those with diminished capacity) are capped at $1,000. Fees for post-conviction, habeas corpus or sexual predator proceedings in non-death penalty cases are capped at either $500 or $1,000, depending on if an evidentiary hearing is included. Death penalty post-conviction and habeas corpus proceedings in a death sentence conviction is capped at a maximum of $10,000. Appellate proceedings are capped at $2,000.
There also are reimbursements, with receipt presentations, for reasonable expenses such as polygraph examination costs, transcripts, expert services, long-distance phone calls and photocopying, as well as "extraordinary" case fees, approved by the court.
If approved by county commissioners on Tuesday, the pay increases and caps would go into effect on Jan. 1.