State Bar of Wisconsin President Fran Deisinger wrote a letter to Governor Scott Walker urging him to support funding in the FY 2017-2018 budget that provides adequate compensation for attorneys across the state.
Dear Governor Walker:
As president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, I am writing to seek your support for additional funding in the FY 2017-2018 budget to provide adequate compensation to attract and retain quality attorneys throughout the justice system.
The State Bar has a longstanding policy of supporting pay progression for Attorneys General, Assistant District Attorneys, Deputy District Attorneys, and Public Defender Attorneys, as well as increasing the reimbursement rate for assigned counsel. We believe that knowledgeable and experienced attorneys are of utmost importance to successfully navigating the justice system and ensuring the best possible outcome for all parties involved in the criminal justice system and for our state as a whole.
In their 2017-2018 budget requests, the State Public Defender’s (SPD) office and Attorney General Brad Schimel, supported by the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association (WDAA), have sought support for salary increases for attorneys in their respective offices. In addition, the SPD is seeking an increase from the $40 an hour private bar rate to $45 to $60 per hour, depending on the assigned case. The current $40/hour rate has remained unchanged since 1995, leading to significant problems finding quality attorneys to take on certain cases, particularly those involving sexual assault. The WDAA is also supporting an increase in the number of prosecutors statewide to offset the increasingly complex and time consuming cases that their office handles. Last, to address a shortage of qualified attorneys throughout much of the state, the SPD is requesting tuition reimbursement for lawyers willing to practice in locations experiencing an attorney shortage.
The justice system is complex. Good lawyers help ensure that the constitutional rights of our citizens are protected, that our laws are appropriately enforced, that our citizens are safe and that the public is protected. We believe strongly that when the justice system is not benefitting from the work of experienced, knowledgeable lawyers on all sides, the inevitable result is that the citizens of our state will pay much more down the road.
Individually, these requests would likely improve attorney retention within their respective agencies; combined, these changes would lead to overall greater effectiveness and efficiency for all involved in the judicial system. On behalf of the State Bar of Wisconsin, I urge you to consider the appeals of the SPD office, as well as of Attorney General Schimel and the WDAA, and include increased funding for attorneys in the upcoming budget.
Francis W. Deisinger
President, State Bar of Wisconsin