MTPR

Montana Office of the State Public Defender

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.

According to a report by the Legislative Fiscal Division, Public Defender workload of abuse and neglect cases has increased 50 percent since fiscal year 2014.
(PD)

As Montana lawmakers begin hearings this week to figure out how to fund public defenders in the state, attorneys say they don’t have enough resources, and their caseloads are rising.

According to a report by the Legislative Fiscal Division, Public Defender workload of abuse and neglect cases has increased 50 percent since fiscal year 2014.
(PD)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed today to fund new judges for Montana’s burdened court system. But, as lawmakers focus on cutting spending statewide, the future of other services in courts are uncertain.

Shards of methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as crystal meth.
Radspunk (GFDL)

Lawmakers in Helena Wednesday considered a proposal to study how increased reports of meth use in Montana are impacting the state’s social services.

Representative Ellie Hill Smith, a Missoula Democrat, says the state needs to find a solution for, what she describes as, a meth problem that’s draining state resources:

Kimberly Dudik (D) HD-94, is the sponsor of two bills heard today at the the Legislature aimed at improve the state's Public Defenders office.
Mike Albans

A bi-partisan task force of lawmakers is proposing a package of 7 bills this legislative session aiming to improve the work of Montana’s Public Defender Office.

Two of those bills got their first hearing Monday in the House Judiciary committee.

Senate Endorses Study Of Public Defender's Office

Apr 14, 2015
Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Today at the Montana Legislature, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass a bill that would create a two-year study on the Office of the State Public Defender. This year, legislators discussed, and argued about what to do with this office, which is meant to provide lawyers for those who can’t afford their own in criminal cases.

Senate Committee Restores Some Funding Cut By House

Apr 3, 2015
Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee added about $55 million of general fund dollars back into the state budget. That’s according to preliminary figures from the Legislative Fiscal Division.

Not quite half of that amount was to cover cost over-runs in the current biennium.

This year’s cost overruns total about $31 million.

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.”