Pay rate in WI so low appointed attorneys can’t ethically and effectively represent criminal defendants

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Wisconsin Bar:

Wisconsin has the worst pay rate in the country for private attorneys who handle cases appointed by the State Public Defender (SPD). Now, one group will ask the state supreme court to stop the “constitutional crisis” that this pay rate is causing.

The U.S. Constitution (Sixth Amendment) and the Wisconsin Constitution (art. I, section 7) guarantee that all criminal defendants have a right to effective assistance of counsel. States must provide a lawyer to indigent defendants who can’t afford one.

All states have some form of public defender system to handle these appointments. The Wisconsin SPD is a state agency with 374 full-time public defenders in 40 offices throughout Wisconsin. SPD staff attorneys handled about 60 percent of the 138,858 case openings in 2016. But private bar attorneys handle the other 40 percent.


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