Appointed Attorney | Recently a study by the Rand Corporation looked at this issue recently by examining the results of 3,173 murder cases in Philadelphia from 1994-2005. Rand Corp. seemed to think the results were surprising, but I think everyone in the justice system really wasn’t too shocked.
First, the study, the question Rand wanted to address does a full-time public defender, with the full resources of the public defenders’ office result in a better outcome than private lawyers who are appointed by the court and paid a very low, flat fee?
No surprise, the answer was yes a full-time public defender is better than having an appointed, part-time criminal defense lawyer. Why? The first issue was the pay. The reason is that appointed counsel received about $3,333 for a full-blown murder trial. The effective hourly rate was less than $2/hour. This coupled with the issue that most court appointed counsel are sole-practitioners with limited resources and limited criminal defense experience mean that not only are you getting the absolute cheapest defense attorney, you’re getting a defense attorney that has very limited experience!
Minnesota doesn’t really use court-appointed criminal defense attorneys, with the exception being for child support contempt cases and some conflicted federal criminal cases. The pay for the Minnesota court appointed attorneys is better, but not much.
Thus, if you are debating to keep a court appointed attorney or a private criminal attorney, you will need to do some hard decisions, do you want a professional attorney who has your best interest in mind? or do you want a court-appointed attorney making $2/hour as they do in Philadelphia?