Idaho is likely headed for a lawsuit over inadequacies in its public defender system, lawmakers warned this morning, and they could take a step to improve the system by boosting pay for lawyers in the State Appellate Public Defender’s Office closer to those in the Attorney General’s office – but the move was voted down in JFAC. “My concern and issue is that we’re not doing this for a lot of other agencies,” said Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell. Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said, “It’s been recognized actually in code that the attorneys representing the people should be paid the same amount as those representing the government.”
Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, said, “I believe that we have a significant issue about public defenders in the state. I think we’re facing a suit coming down the line. I think this could give an indication that we have an intent as a state to address this problem.” But his budget motion, which would have put $351,800 toward salary parity in the office – in line with Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation – failed on a 5-15 vote, with just Sens. Lacey and Keough and Rep. King joining Schmidt and Ringo in backing it. Bolz’s budget bill for the SAPD’s office, which reduces the amount for salary parity to just $50,000, then passed on an 18-2 vote, with just Ringo and King objecting.