Wisconsin lawyers seek to increase public defender pay

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Private attorneys in Wisconsin are again pushing for a pay increase when they are appointed by the state public defender to represent criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state Supreme Court has scheduled a May 16 hearing to listen to the arguments about increasing the pay rate to $100 an hour. The current pay rate of $40 an hour is the lowest in the U.S.

Lawyers say the rate isn't enough to mount a serious defense. Costs include acquiring expert witnesses and investigators.

Two lawmakers have been circulating a proposal that would create tiered increases in the private bar compensation rate. The plan would have reimbursement rates of $55, $60 and $70 per hour, depending on a case's difficulty.

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