State Funding Dries Up for Lawyers of Indigent Defendants

May 4, 2017

Some attorneys in Maine appointed to defend people who can’t afford a lawyer will have to wait nearly two months to get paid as state funding runs out.

John Pelletier is executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, the agency that oversees attorneys who provide constitutionally required lawyers for indigent people in Maine courts. The budget for the current fiscal year is almost $3 million less than for the last budget year, and Pelletier says that means court-appointed lawyers who submit bills from now through June won’t be paid until the new budget year, which starts July 1.

“The attorneys bill at the end of their cases so that they don’t submit a bill until they’ve already worked on the case for, could be weeks, could be months. In some cases it’s year or two,” he says.

Pelletier says the feedback he has been getting is that, despite cash flow concerns, most of the attorneys associated with his agency will continue to provide services.

“And it will be very difficult on these attorneys who operate small businesses throughout the state to not have the cash flow between now and the beginning of the next fiscal year,” he says.

Pelletier says he’s not aware of any current legislative effort to come up with supplemental funding to remedy the situation.