State saves millions on attorneys' fees for indigent defendants - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

State saves millions on attorneys' fees for indigent defendants

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Branch Kloess looks through a case he's working on for an indigent defendant. Branch Kloess looks through a case he's working on for an indigent defendant.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Branch Kloess routinely works on cases for indigent defendants.

"We charge for our services based on what we do--whether it's a preliminary hearing or a bond hearing or filing motions or research or trials."

The rate he's allowed to charge the state for that work, though, has changed.

And it's all because a law legislators passed in 2011 allows the state to reduce the rate to save money.

"That wasn't a really big deal for me and I don't know anyone who has made a real issue out of it. But that was the biggest change. I just don't know how they're gonna save this much money," adds Kloess.

Kloess says the state already caps attorneys' compensation--meaning his pay stops at a certain point even if the case isn't closed.

"Probably won't make any more income on that case because we're already maxed out."

Also, the number of cases have increased over the years.

"You're talking thousands and thousands of cases every year."

That means more attorneys...and more fees.

Kloess hopes the state can save the money.

Either way, he'll still serve indigent defendants.

"This is something that I've chosen to do. I've done it for almost 25 years now. Hopefully, if we get paid, fine. And if we don't, we do it because we're providing, I think, a very valuable service to the citizens."

By the end of the year state finance officials hope the indigent defense costs decrease from $65 million a year to $46 million.

Before the law was passed capping attorneys' compensation, each case was costing the state roughly $800. Now, that number is about $600.

Copyright 2013  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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