Indigent defense funding cuts could mean $25 hourly rates for attorneys
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Yesterday, the Iowa House debated the justice system’s budget bill (SF 497). The House passed an amendment replacing the original Senate file with its own language. The new House amendments include language that significantly drops court-appointed counsel reimbursement rates from $65 to $25 per hour for simple misdemeanors.

"This language is an insult to the hard-working lawyers who take these cases and provide constitutionally-guaranteed counsel,” said ISBA Legislative Counsel Jim Carney. "Paying attorneys $25 per hour is an insult to our profession. The Iowa State Bar Association cannot allow this language to become law and further diminish the value of Iowa lawyers.”

The House amendments reduced funding for indigent defense and the state public defender compared with last year. The amendment reduced the state public defender’s budget from $26.03 million to $24.74 million. Indigent defense was reduced from $29.75 million to $28.23 million. The ISBA is very concerned about the potential of a $1.5 million dollar cut to indigent defense.

"We need to let our elected officials know immediately that these changes will have a drastic impact on lawyers in Iowa and the availability of court-appointed counsel,” Carney said.

The bill now returns to the Senate and can be amended by the Senate or sent to conference committee. The ISBA urges members to contact Iowa Senators immediately. Members should ask the Senate to restore indigent defense funding to $29.75 million and to remove the language inserted by the House reducing simple misdemeanor reimbursement to $25 per hour.

Members can find their district senator’s contact information by clicking here to be navigated to the Iowa Legislature website.