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Statute requires state to pay attorney fees on inmate’s appeal

April 9, 2014

Indiana Code 33-37-2-4 requires the state to pay appellate attorney fees and expenses when an inmate commits a crime in a state correctional facility, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday.

The state appealed the order from Madison County that it pay $5,232.35 in attorney fees and expenses to Anthony Lawrence, who was appointed by the court to file an appeal on behalf of Jeffrey Cook. Cook, an inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, was convicted of murdering another inmate who was a member of a rival gang. Cook was found to be indigent and appointed a public defender for trial. The state paid for the defender, but challenged the bill to pay Lawrence’s fees.

Madison Circuit Judge Dennis Carroll, when ordering the state to pay, noted it had been a longstanding practice for the state to pay the trial and appeal costs of inmates.

The state claimed that the burden of paying for appeals should fall on Madison County. The Court of Appeals held that I.C. 33-37-2-4, which recognizes the financial burden placed on counties containing state correctional facilities, shifts that burden to the state for trial and appellate costs.

“Not requiring the State to pay for the inmate’s appellate attorney fees and expenses—when it pays for the expenses at the trial-court level—would be inconsistent with the statute’s underlying policy and goals and would bring about an unjust result,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in In re the Order for the Payment of Attorney Fees and Reimbursement of Expenses, State of Indiana v. Jeffrey Cook, 48A02-1307-MI-615. “This is because the counties have no control if an offender is placed in a facility in its county.”

Vaidik pointed out that the state can dispute counsel’s requested attorney fees and expenses as unreasonable before the trial court orders it to pay those fees. The state could also hire a public defender at a salary to defend the inmates at trial and to file their appeals, she wrote.
 

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