Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It’s About Time for a Raise

Time to jump on a timely soap box.*

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Ethics is considering a bill to raise the pay for private lawyers that provide criminal defense for the indigent. I say that it is about time! It should go without saying but everyone accused of a crime has the right to a vigorous defense and that includes the poor. I worry that if we continue to pay these attorneys so little that we will chase many talented people out of such a necessary job. Most of these private attorneys do great work and often deal with very complicated cases and even more complicated clients. The simple fact is that they have not received a raise in a very long time and they deserve it. Currently they only get $40 an hour for this necessary and noble work. That is only $5 more than what they were paid back in 1978 for goodness sake! A five dollar raise in 30 years? How many of us would be OK with that in our own careers? It will be interesting to see if we can ignore the inevitably shallow attacks long enough to do the right thing. Kudos to Rep. Fred Kessler for introducing the bill.

*I used to almost exclusively do investigative work for criminal defense attorneys so I am well aware of their struggles and the fact that they have been severely underpaid for far too long.

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