Minnesota Lawyer (subscription required) reports on the bill for public defenders’ funding. The background of the funding for public defenders is as follows.
In 2008, public defenders were funded through attorney’s registration fees. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld this type of funding. Through this funding, the state Board of Public Defense was able to generate around $1.9 million annually. This request was reapproved in 2011.
However, in December, the state Board of Public Defense withdrew its request to earmark funding from the attorney registration fee. This decision came in December, when various committees and group sections of the Minnesota State Board Association removed its support for the petition.
On Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, the state Senate passed a judiciary funding bill that increases funding for public defenders. The bill provides $5 million for increased employee salary and benefits for public defenders. The bill also provides $5.6 million for new public defenders positions that will reduce caseloads. The Senate bill was passed by 47-18 votes.
The Senate Judiciary Finance Division Chairman Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) stated that the bill helps alleviate a public defender system that is “overworked, overburdened, [and] has some of the biggest caseloads in the country.”
via Minnesota Senate passes increased funding for public defenders | Minnesota Lawyer.
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.
via PDs lose at arbitration – MinnLawyer Blog.