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Additional public defender fees without hearing affirmed

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A man who appealed a court order that he pay fees in excess of the statutory public defender fee capped at $100 lost his appeal, though one judge said the trial court must hold a hearing on the defendant’s ability to pay.

Michael B. Eliseo pleaded guilty to Class D felony receiving stolen property and was sentenced to three years in prison with nine months executed. In addition to the public defender fee of $100, Wells Circuit Judge Kenton Kiracofe ordered Eliseo to pay a supplemental public defender service fee of $300 and $166 in court costs.

In Michael B. Eliseo v. State of Indiana, 90A04-1307-CR-370 Judge Melissa May wrote that even though no hearing was conducted nor findings issued by the trial court, the court did not abuse its discretion since additional fees may be collected under I.C. 33-40-3-6 or I.C. 33-37-2-3.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not conduct a hearing on Eliseo’s ability to pay fees because he was not required to pay until after he was released from incarceration,” May wrote. “Also, the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered him to pay a $300.00 public defender fee because the amount was within the statutory limit.”

Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred with May’s opinion, and Judge Patricia Riley concurred in result but wrote separately of the need for the trial court to conduct a hearing.

“(C)ontingent upon the trial court conducting a hearing when the fees are due and making a specific finding of Eliseo’s ability to pay, I find no abuse of discretion in its imposition of public defender fees in the amount of $300 and court costs in the amount of $166,” Riley wrote.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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