Bar News - January 21, 2015
Court News: Assigned Counsel Pay Could Increase Soon
By: Kristen Senz
The first pay increase for assigned counsel in 20 years may be on the horizon, after the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules last month voted to recommend it to the Court.
The committee also asked the court to fast-track the change.
The hourly rate increase, from $60 to $100, would only apply to attorneys appointed to defend indigent defendants in major crimes, including capital murder, homicide, aggravated felonious sexual assault, felonious sexual assault and first-degree assault.
Chris Keating, executive director of the NH Judicial Council, said he has had trouble finding qualified attorneys willing to accept these types of cases, which generally require 200-400 hours of work and represent about 1 percent of the assigned counsel caseload, or about 20 cases per year.
“They might be individually willing to (take the cases), but they’re not willing to do that to their partners, or their families for that matter,” Keating said at a public hearing before the rules committee.
The financial impact from the rate increase is estimated at about $80,000 per year. Keating asked the committee to consider recommending to the Supreme Court that it adopt the change immediately, rather than letting the proposal plod through the usual review process (see related story).
Keating said funding for the rate increase could be found in the Judicial Council’s current budget, should the Court decide to adopt the necessary rule change before the end of the fiscal year.
The committee’s recommendation to the Court included a suggested increase of the AFSA and first-degree assault case fee cap of $4,100, which is already routinely exceeded, to $8,000. The cap for homicide cases is $20,000.