Public Defender Office Hopes to Save $2M by Hiring New Attorneys

Move is expected to save the office $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017

By Dillon Tabish

BILLINGS — Montana’s public defender’s office says it will hire 62 attorneys instead of assigning cases to outside counsel.

The Billings Gazette reports the move is expected to save the office $2.2 million in fiscal year 2017. The new attorneys will handle certain cases that were previously assigned to local attorneys because of conflicts of interest or high caseloads.

Doug Day, interim director of the Billings’ office, says the public defender typically paid contracted attorneys about $62 per hour. The new attorneys will be part-time and will be paid between $37 and $48 hourly.

Some contract attorneys worried they may not be able to support their practices without the public defender’s cases.

But Public Defender Commission member Mark Parker says the move is the best way to reduce costs while upholding the office’s mission.

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