NewsPublic Affairs / July 10, 2020

Many Public Defenders Getting Compensated Less Than Minimum Wage

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Many Public Defenders Getting Compensated Less Than Minimum Wage

Many Public Defenders Getting Compensated Less Than Minimum Wage

Brandon Smith

 

Many lawyers in Indiana doing public defender work earn less than minimum wage, after accounting for overhead costs.

That’s from a survey by the Indiana Public Defender Commission covering more than 200 attorneys.

Many attorneys doing public defender work do so under contract with counties – meaning they get paid a flat amount, regardless of the number of hours they work. And that’s the primary method of public defense in about one-third of Indiana.

Those attorneys have significant overhead costs that public defenders who are employees of the counties don’t have, staffing and office space the most significant.

And when taking into account those overhead costs, the Public Defender Commission’s survey says contract attorneys earn less than $6 per hour.

Commission senior staff attorney Derrick Mason said as a result, many of those lawyers have to take on a lot of private clients too, just to cover their costs.

“Who is being punished? The clients that don’t get to choose their lawyer but have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel,” Mason said.

Mason says potential solutions include counties covering those overhead costs, increasing compensation, or paying hourly rates rather than flat contract fees.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

At WFYI, our goal is to cover stories that matter to you. Our reporting is rooted in facts. It considers all perspectives and is available to everyone. We don't have paywalls, but we do need support. So if unbiased, trusted journalism is important to you, please join us. Donate now.

 

 

Related News

NIPSCO To Pay $1.1 Million In Fines For Pipeline Safety Violations
SW Indiana Utility Vectren To Be Renamed CenterPoint Energy
Report: Government Not Protecting Lower-Income Neighborhoods From Pollution