Philly may contest plan to increase fees for attorneys defending the poor

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 (Piotr Adamowicz/Bigstock)

(Piotr Adamowicz/Bigstock)

After decades, Philadelphia’s court system is promising to pay court-appointed defense attorneys more.

One wrinkle in the plan: The city has not budgeted any funds to cover the increase.

The extra money is absolutely necessary for attorneys to prepare an adequate defense for indigent clients, said Common Pleas Court Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper.

“All in an effort to insure that these lawyers who are contributing to making sure that individuals who don’t have the ability to pay have adequate representation,” she said Wednesday.

Set to take effect July 1, the new rate for felony trial preparation for first-degree crimes will double to  $1,200. Payment for lesser felonies will rise to $750, while attorneys handling misdemeanor trials will go from $350 to $450.

City Deputy Managing Director Ben Lerner, a former judge and defense attorney, said the higher pay would add up to about $5 million a year.

“The reason that the increase is so large is that it’s been 20 years since counsel fees in general have been examined and increased,” Lerner said.

The city may appeal the matter in a higher court because of the inability to pay, Lerner said.

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