District judge proposes solution to court-appointed lawyer shortage in Taylor County

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – In a county budget meeting this month, 104th District Court Judge Lee Hamilton proposed higher payment for court-appointed lawyers in Taylor County in hopes of getting more attorneys to come back to work as public defenders.

Judge Hamilton proposed several changes to the court-appointed-lawyer fee schedule and in doing so shared just how much less Taylor County is paying public defenders than other comparable counties.

“The county courts of law have for the last ten years paid $115 per [misdemeanor] case….Wichita County pays $250 per misdemeanor case, Midland pays $500 per misdemeanor case,” said Judge Hamilton.

Attorney Randy Wilson says it was the unbalanced workload between effort and pay that lead him to taking his name of the list of court-appointed lawyers.

“I couldn’t justify the amount of time I was spending on the cases,” said Wilson.

Wilson also said that because of the low amount that these lawyers are paid forces them to take on more cases, which could lead to less than perfect representation for defendants.

“The question becomes is he putting in the time, putting in the research so on and so forth?” said Wilson.

In the budget meeting, Judge Hamilton proposed a small increase in wages for these lawyers – this change most easily illustrated in the $85 boost for representing misdemeanor cases.

“What we looked at doing with the misdemeanors was raising the fee from $115 to $200 and raising the fee from subsequent cases from $35 to $50,” said Judge Hamilton.

Budget meeting negotiations for the county are ongoing.

Watch the full interview with Randy Wilson on Big Country Politics here.

Watch the budget meeting where court-appointed lawyers fees were discussed here – Judge Hamilton’s proposal begins roughly 50 minutes into the meeting.

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