Henry Martin is the federal public defender for the Middle District of Tennessee. In today’s Tennessean, Mr. Martin wrote a very thoughtful letter to the editor about the duty of a public defender. One of his comments was about the pay of new lawyers. One New York law firm recently announced that new hires would get $180,000.00. The starting pay is way above the salary of public defenders and Tennessee state court judges. The bigger issue is the pay scale to appointed counsel for indigent defendants.

In some cases, the courts must appoint counsel to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases. The Constitution demands that all folks are entitled to a lawyer. Conflicts arise where a lawyer must be appointed to represent one accused of a crime.

The problem is the pay is lousy. Currently, an attorney for an appointed counsel gets paid $40.00 per hour in court and $50.00 for in court time. There is a cap on the amount of time one can charge on each case. Some folks reading this will think $40.00 per hour is great pay. Let’s look at it a little tighter.

What needs to be deducted from that number ?

  • Health Insurance
  • Office Rent
  • Saving for Retirement
  • Taxes
  • Office Expenses.

The list can go on.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has set up a series of listening tours on the subject. Get involved. Reach out to the folks that make a difference. The question is should we provide adequate compensation for those who represent folks charged with a crime.