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Lawsuit Seeks to Raise Court-Appointed Rate Above $650

What do large-firm, white-collar criminal defense attorneys and court-appointed criminal lawyers have in common?  They both charge $650. Only for the Biglaw attorneys, that's $650 an hour, while for court-appointed lawyers in Pennsylvania, it's $650 for preparation of a felony case (or a whopping $2,000 for homicides). Rates like these compromise indigent defendants' constitutional rights to effective assistance of counsel and a fair trial, argue a group of court-appointed lawyers in Philadelphia, who've filed suit for a pay increase in federal court, according to this report. In their complaint, the lawyers ask the court to prohibit all criminal trials involving court-appointed lawyers until a more adequate pay system is put in place.

While court-appointed lawyers aren't entitled to the same pay as their large-firm clients (whose clients can afford to pay huge fees), at the same time, $650 for a felony or $2,000 for a homicide is unconscionably low. At a bargain rate of $50/hour, that's 13 hours for the felony case or 40  hours for the homicide. Kind of hard to squeeze in a trial with caps like that. 

If you're a criminal defense lawyer, what do you do? Do you press your clients to take a plea? And how many of these cases do you handle at a loss before you stop accepting them at all? 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 10, 2008 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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