Bidding for public defense work

September 1, 2011
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The Tennessee Supreme Court is considering whether to enter into fixed-fee contracts with attorneys in particular types of cases to help reduce costs. The Tennessean recently reported on the proposed changes to indigent defense.

There’s an amendment out there that would allow the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts to seek bids and award contracts for contempt proceedings in nonpayment of child support cases and hearings on whether to involuntary commit someone to a mental-health institution.

The proposal is an attempt to save money. Like a lot of states, more people need appointed counsel and states are looking at ways to cut costs where they can.

Critics argue that using fixed or flat fees for cases would encourage attorneys to put in as little work as possible.  

Wisconsin has a system in place where the public defense of misdemeanors is covered by flat rates. That state’s public defender office recently sent out request for proposals this year for flat rate contracting, continuing the contracts through 2013. Depending on what county lawyers practice in, they could get anywhere from $235 to $413 a case.

According to the Indiana Public Defender Commission’s Standards for Indigent Defense Services in Non-Capital Cases, last amended Dec. 10, 2008, counsel appointed on a case-by-case basis “shall be compensated for time actually expended at the hourly rate of not less than $60.00.”

What do you think about using flat fees for public defense?

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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