New Mexico Public Defenders Office Warns Of Major Shortage Of Attorneys
The New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender says it is woefully short of attorneys and needs a major influx of funding from the state to hire new ones.
A recent study shows it would take hundreds of additional attorneys just to catch up with the current workload.
The office is asking state lawmakers for a nearly 21% hike in funding during next year’s 30-day session.
The annual caseload for the Public Defenders is over 78,000 with 349 attorneys either in-house or under contract.
Public Defender Commission Chair Thomas Joseph Clear told the Legislative Finance Committee the lack of enough attorneys is causing a strain particularly with the increases in warrant roundups and more aggressive enforcement.
“The thing I ask and caution you is that you always remember that it is a three-legged stool,” he said. “There’s the judicial branch, the judges, the staff and the courts. There is the law enforcement and the District Attorneys, prosecution leg and there’s the public defense leg. They need to be funded pretty much equally because the stresses of having all those new cases come upon are clients and our attorneys to represent them.”
The LOPD is asking for $6.2 million to pay for 30 more attorneys along with 30 core staff, investigators and social workers. $4.9 million for contract attorneys and complex case costs. And $2.1 million for pay equity and parity with prosecutors and other state attorneys.