STANTON – The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners is considering a raise request for lawyers in the juvenile court after the judge of that court raised concerns of a lack of attorney for that court’s parent and child clients.
Montcalm County Juvenile Court Judge Charle Simon III filed a written motion to the county Finance and Personnel Committee on November 9.
The judge did not attend the session in person due to a previously planned trial. The commissioners voted to recommend the full-board raise request, but they also ask the judge to attend Monday’s session so he can answer a few questions about the request.
At Simon’s request, he wrote that the juvenile court has a court-appointed lawyer camp and is struggling to find adequate legal representation for clients – which is constitutionally required.
“This is partly due to the (state-mandated) needy defense program, which allows the same attorneys to charge an hourly rate between $ 100 and $ 120 and the number of years without increasing the rate,” the judge wrote.
The current hourly rate for juvenile court attorneys is $ 55, and that rate has not changed since 1988, according to the judge, who is calling for the rate to be increased to $ 80 an hour.
“Without proper client representation (parents and children), the court is dealing with critical liability issues, an increased number of legal cases, and significant addressable issues that will cost the county far more than the annual hourly increase,” wrote Simon.
The judge estimates that the hourly rate increase, if approved by the commissioners, will cost the county from $ 50,000 to $ 85,000 per year and would come from the county’s general fund.
“His small pool of attorneys that he uses to work on the juvenile court basically stated that they will no longer work for $ 55 an hour because the attorneys in the hallway (at the Public Defender Office, the defendants in need ) Earning $ 100 to $ 120 an hour, “said Brenda Taeter, Controller Administrator for Montcalm County, summarizing the commissioners at their November 9th meeting.
Edmore’s Detective Phil Kohn was surprised to learn that the juvenile court’s legal counseling rate hasn’t changed in 32 years.
“Is that a typo – your pay hasn’t changed since 1988?” Asked Kohn. “I’m surprised the rate hasn’t increased since 1988.”
“I know lawyers love to go as long as possible when paid by the hour,” noted Montcalm Township Commissioner Adam Petersen. “If we paid them $ 300 a case, maybe they’d hurry a little more.”
The entire Board of Commissioners will continue to discuss the matter and vote on it at the regular session on Monday, which begins at 6:00 p.m. on the third floor of the Montcalm County Administration Building in Stanton.