Tennessee Supreme Court Looking to Help Poor People with Legal Needs

Coffee County Courthouse

Tennessee’s Supreme Court is suggesting changes to help poor people get proper legal representation.
A court news release recommends a bump from a $40 or $50 hourly pay rate for appointed lawyers to a $65 hourly rate. It would be the first increase in two decades.
Additionally, the court seeks a $500 boost to today’s $1,500 lawyer pay cap in indigent cases.
The court suggests new public defender appellate and conflicts divisions, the latter to ensure public defenders are used instead of private attorneys.
Judges would have to explain public defender conflicts before appointing private attorneys.
A new state commission would oversee indigent representation issues.
The court says it will bill periodically, instead of after cases, to ensure lawyers are paid more quickly.
Many of the suggestions require legislative approval.