MTPR

Bill Hooks

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

This week, lawmakers are considering how to fund the Office of the State Public Defender, that provides legal counsel to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

During the last two days of hearings, attorneys from across the state gathered in a small third floor room in the Capitol, telling lawmakers about budget cuts that they say are adding to their already burdened work.

The state’s Chief Public Defender says workloads for public defense attorneys have improved due to financial help from the Montana Legislature. However, Bill Hooks said his office still needs more help.

The 2013 Legislature gave the public defender’s office *$1.2 million in new money for employee raises, which Hooks said has been very helpful.

"We were able to bring our attorney salaries more in line with what our colleagues were getting in other courts throughout the state,” Hooks said. “So I think that was a significant improvement and we're very appreciative of that.”