Gov. Baker Signs Bill to Pay $26M Owed Public Defenders

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill authorizing a $26 million payment to public defenders who provide legal services to low-income residents.

The money is owed to some 3,000 private attorneys who represented indigent defendants during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Many had not been paid by the state for months.

The backlog stemmed from what critics say is the Legislature’s chronic underfunding of the Committee on Public Counsel Services, a state agency that provides legal services for those who cannot otherwise afford it.

The Republican governor originally requested $124 million for court-appointed lawyers in last year’s budget, but the Legislature reduced that to $99 million in the final spending plan.

Lawmakers say the recently-approved fiscal 2018 budget includes a reserve account to pay public defenders.

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