March 17, 2009

WA: turning away from the flat rate in Pasco

From the Tri-City Herald:

Franklin County urged to restructure public defender contracts

Franklin County should restructure its public defense contracts to reduce its vulnerability to lawsuits, county commissioners were warned Monday. "A county actually can be sued for the indigent defense services they provide, whether they be insufficient, of low quality or whatnot," said Eric Hsu, public defense coordinator for Benton and Franklin counties.

He pointed out two problems he sees in Franklin County's public defender contracts. First, when public defenders give up their county contracts to work elsewhere, the county holds them responsible for pending cases. The attorneys are supposed to keep managing those cases until they're resolved, including traveling back to Franklin County for court dates. The contracts don't require the county to pay for those services. "So that creates a situation where you have an attorney that has a large incentive to not pay attention to cases that are left over ... because they're not being paid for them," Hsu said.

Second, he is concerned the county doesn't pay defense attorneys additional compensation for days actually spent in trial. Without per diem compensation, attorneys could have an incentive to encourage clients to plead out rather than go to trial. "A contract that has no trial per diem can be regarded as a 'flat fee' contract ... and, to the extent it financially discourages trying cases, is very possibly unconstitutional," Hsu stated...

1 Comment:

Chris said...

Wait, a "no trial per diem" contract is unconstitutional? Hot dog! So all those trial I end up doing because it's the right thing to do...I should be getting a pay bump for that? Excellent.