Contract Public Defenders Sue Over Hourly Rate Decrease

State Office of Public Defender is reducing hourly reimbursement rates for attorneys from $62 to $56 due to state budget cuts

By Associated Press

GREAT FALLS — Attorneys who do contract work for the state Office of Public Defender are suing the office for reducing their hourly reimbursement rates from $62 to $56 due to state budget cuts.

While the contract the attorneys sign say it is subject to change by the Montana Public Defender Commission, the attorneys argue a U.S. Supreme Court ruling says the government can’t change the terms of a public contract just to save money.

The Great Falls Tribune reports the lawsuit was filed May 10 against the Office of Public Defender and Gov. Steve Bullock. The governor’s office declined to comment.

The lawsuit alleged the rate reduction, which is expected to save the state $1.2 million, forces contract attorneys to either accept the reduced rates for ongoing cases or to drop their clients.

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