The House Ways and Means Budget does not adopt the Governor’s proposal to fold the Committee for Public Counsel Services into the Executive Branch and eliminate bar advocates (contract attorneys) by replacing them with 1000 new public employees.
The perceptions of that proposal were (a) that it was not practical or cost-effective to hire 1000 new employees; (b) that CPCS has done a generally good job managing the representation of indigent defendants.
The HWM Committee was concerned about the cost of counsel for the indigent and adopted the following measures:
- Require stricter enforcement of the limits on who should get a court appointed attorney — that is, require stricter indigency determination.
- Encouraging district attorneys to reevaluate cases to determine whether criminal charges which would trigger an entitlement to counsel are necessary (as opposed to civil fines which would not trigger a counsel entitlement.
- Shifting approximately 10% of the full caseload to CPCS, moving from a 10/90 split between public employee attorneys and contract attorneys to a 20/80 split. This was explicitly identified as a reasonable end-state balance as opposed to a step in a longer term plan. This means hiring 200 additional CPCS employees in areas where savings will be realized.
- Reinstitute a cap on billable hours for contract attorneys at 1500 hours per year.
- Expand CPCS attorney auditing and cost-management capacity.
- Expand the CPCS Board, adding to the 9 SJC appointments, two appointments from each of the Governor, the Senate and the House.