Minnesota Lawyer Blog reports on an arbitration award denying the grievance of public defenders. In summary, public defenders filed a grievance alleging a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) violation when public defenders were assigned too many cases.
The grievants asked for the arbitrator to order the board of public defense to adopt a maximum caseload standard of 400. Evidence presented by the grievants shows that defenders in the Third District have an average of between 660 and 745 cases in the last five years. They say this excessive caseload violates their union contract because it brings rise to ethical concerns over whether the attorneys can provide adequate representation to their clients and creates a risk that the attorneys will violate the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Arbitrator Befort found that there was no violation since the CBA did not mention a caseload cap. Further, Arbitrator Befort found that there had been no discipline of attorneys relating to having too many cases.
Befort concluded that the issue was best decided by the state legislature that allocates funding for public defense, and not a union contract dispute.
“[T]his is not a problem that has been caused by the failure of the State Board of Public Defense to fulfill its obligations under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. Ultimately, the problem at hand is political in nature and requires resolution at a different forum,” he wrote.
A copy of the decision is here.