07 October 2003

The Joy of Court Appointed Work:

(1) Appointed to Virginia Exile case (5 years mandatory). Visit client at a jail in another county and interview him. Have a bond hearing.

(2) Approximately two months later, have a preliminary hearing. Total work at this point = approximately 5 hours of work at $90 per hour1 ($450). Statute and funding from the Legislature limits payment to $112.

(3) Approximately two months later, prepare for bench trial and negotiate with Commonwealth Attorney. On the trial date, prosecutor offers 2 years but client declines and asks for a jury trial (a choice I agree with). Work at this point approximately 4 hours ($360).

(4) Approximately two months later, after serious negotiations the prosecutor offers 1 year and 6 months. Client declines and the jury trial is continued because witnesses have not been located. Work since first trial date 5 hours ($450).

(5) Approximately 2 months later, spend week preparing for the jury trial (looking up cases; making sure arguments are ready; preparing jury instructions, &cetera). Go to prepare the Defendant in jail 3 days before trial. Halfway thru preparation the Defendant decides to take the plea agreement. Go to the courthouse the next day and spend two hours getting the jury called off. The day of trial Client comes into court and pleads guilty2. Work since the continuance 10 hours ($900).

Total amount of payment due by hourly rate: $1,710.

Cap imposed by the Legislature: $395.

The worst thing about it isn't really all the work I did without compensation. I long ago realized that if my indigent clients' rights were going to be actual rather than a nice theory I was going to have to lose money on almost any jury trial for them. The worst of it is that I did all that work without compensation and never even got to put on a jury trial I thought I could win.

1 In theory the Commonwealth of Virginia allows us to bill $90 per hour in court appointed cases.

2 And I leave extremely frustrated because I think the case was very winnable.

No comments: