Assigned Counsel Now Take On Wider Variety Of Cases
Successful applicants are awarded a contract called a personal services agreement. Depending on the work, payment is either hourly or a flat fee. For instance, assigned counsel who handle cases at the judicial district level receive $1,000 per case. Those who take on cases in geographical area courts, which handle lesser crimes, receive $350. Juvenile cases also pay $350.
If a case is involved enough to warrant hourly pay, the rate is $75 for felonies, serious juvenile crimes, habeas corpus cases and appellate work. Misdemeanors pay $50 an hour. Lawyers need pre-approval for additional costs such as experts, investigation, and travel.
Every lawyer taking on assigned counsel cases is required to complete six hours of annual training offered by the Public Defender's Office. In addition, attorneys taking assigned counsel assignments for the first time must complete a basic orientation course offered each summer.
Day said newly assigned counsels also get paired up with a mentor for the first year.
Lawyers under contract as assigned counsel can turn down any case offered to them, Day said, and there's no minimum number of cases a lawyer must handle per year.
"It's useful for attorneys not always practicing in the criminal sphere to every once in a while see how the other half lives," said Kletter. "It's a good healthy thing for people who do civil litigation. It's been a real positive experience for me on many levels."•
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