For the first time in more than 20 years, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ordered an increase in the amount paid to lawyers representing indigent parties in criminal and child welfare cases. This rate increase, a 25-percent hike in the hourly rate paid to lawyers for out-of-court work, was funded by a $9.7 million appropriation by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Bill Haslam.
Beginning July 1, the court increased the hourly rate paid to court-appointed lawyers representing indigent parties to $50 an hour for all services. The court also raised the total amount of compensation a lawyer can receive in certain cases by $250-$500. Before the July 1 increase, lawyers received $40 an hour for out-of-court work and $50 an hour for in-court work.
The entire $9.7 million in new funds was used to increase attorney rates; none was used for administrative costs or other projects.
Under both the U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions, the state must provide legal counsel to defendants in criminal cases and parties in many juvenile court cases who can’t afford an attorney. In Tennessee, state-funded public defenders in each judicial district provide legal representation to most indigent defendants in criminal cases. When a public defender has a conflict and cannot represent a party, or other circumstances arise, the judge must appoint private counsel to represent the indigent party. In addition, court appointed attorneys are used to represent children and families in neglect or abuse cases, which accounts for over 30-percent of spending. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/10/2018-6AM)