Washington, DC (June 28, 2018) -- Yesterday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its formal order in the matter of the petition filed by the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL), the Wisconsin Association of Justice, and others seeking to "chang[e] the hourly rate of compensation for court-appointed lawyers to $100/hour, indexing that rate to annual cost of living increases, and specifying that the payment of an hourly rate less than the rate set forth in Supreme Court Rule 81.02 for legal services rendered pursuant to appointment by the State Public Defender under Wisconsin Statutes section 977.08 is unreasonable."
By that order, the set rate for lawyers appointed by the courts under Wisconsin Supreme Court Rule 81.02 will remain $70 per hour until 2020. Beginning in 2020, it will be $100, but only as respects appointments made by the courts. The court declined to rule that the statutory rate of $40 per hour for state public defender appointments is unreasonable. In addition, the Court declined to ban flat fee contracts. Instead, the Court deferred on these matters to a legislature that has refused to raise that rate in decades.
As revealed in a March 2013 NACDL report – Gideon at 50, Part I – Rationing Justice: The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems – Wisconsin has long had the lowest statutory assigned counsel rate in the nation at $40 per hour. That is the rate paid to court-assigned counsel to represent criminally accused persons in Wisconsin who cannot afford a lawyer. This rate is set forth in the Wisconsin Statutes §977.08 and has been the same for more than 20 years.
"While the Court noted that the $40 per hour statutory rate for assigned counsel is 'abysmally low’ and that 'chronic underfunding of the Office of the State Public Defender (SPD) has reached a crisis point,’ the Court nonetheless missed an important opportunity to take action commensurate with the nature and severity of the public defense crisis in Wisconsin," said NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer. "Even the increase in the $70 rate for those attorneys appointed by the courts of Wisconsin does not become effective until 2020. This delay, taken together with the declination by the court to ban flat fee contracts or take some action to ensure that accused persons do not go unrepresented for prolonged periods because of a shortage of lawyers able to take cases at the $40 per hour statutory rate, ensures that Wisconsin’s public defense system will remain in crisis indefinitely."
NACDL’s written comments detail how (i) the courts have the obligation to protect and enforce the constitutional right to the assistance of counsel and have the authority to act to assure this constitutional mandate is met, (ii) the Sixth Amendment right to counsel means more than a warm body with a bar card to appear with an accused, it requires an effective advocate, (iii) the cost of the state’s obligation to provide constitutionally required counsel cannot be placed on the backs of the counties or the private bar, and (iv) the consequences of low pay for court-appointed counsel is delay in the criminal justice system, and justice delayed is justice denied.
Video of the May 16, 2018, hearing is available here. In addition, all pleadings and submissions in this matter before the Wisconsin Supreme Court are available at https://www.wicourts.gov/scrules/1706.htm.
To learn more about NACDL’s extensive work in the public defense arena, please visit www.nacdl.org/publicdefense.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or email@example.com
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.