By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that could have major implications for poor parents who are sued in child protection cases (See The Star Tribune). The question, interestingly enough, isn’t whether parents parents who can’t afford an attorney in a child protection case are entitled to representation. They are. Instead, the question is whether the Court has the authority to require a county to pay for a private attorney or whether representation must be by a public defender. Public defenders are paid for out of the judiciary budget. In the case to be decided by the state supreme court, a Rice County judge appointed a private attorney to represent the indigent parents in a child protection case, ordering the county to pay for it out of their budget.

Private Attorney v. Public Defender

I cannot say enough about the quality of public defenders we have here in Minnesota. However, it is likely that most people would choose a private attorney over a public defender. I did read an interesting article in The Concurring Opinion that theorized that the experience obtained by public defenders make them a better choice for most defendants than a private lawyer. Another problem is that the pay rate for private attorneys performing public defender services can be very low. In Wisconsin, for example, a private attorney who takes a public defender appointment will earn $40 an hour, when the average hourly pay for attorneys in Wisconsin is $188 an hour. (From All Business.) In fact, that $40 an hour is only $5 an hour higher than was paid for public defender appointments in 1978, when the public defender statute was passed.

Public Defender Overload

With the current economic situation, there is a serious problem with overload in the public defender’s office, especially in out-state Minnesota. (See The LaCrosse Tribune and The Star Tribune). Hiring private attorneys to help with the backlog in time-sensitive child protection cases must be a serious temptation to judges balancing their own overcrowded dockets against the welfare of abused and neglected children.

Of course, if the Courts expect private attorneys to accept appointments to represent indigent clients, there needs to be a mechanism to pay the attorney for their time. The attorney who was appointed in the Rice County case has not yet been paid.

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Thankful Things in Divorce Law

Family Law and Peace and Quiet

It’s Friday, we have been very rushed all week and we have a firm retreat this weekend. Tonight we plan to have a summer cookout with friends. Hopefully today will be a quiet one! As it is I have a few minutes here to count our blessings. It may sound odd to think of being thankful in a law practice consisting of divorce cases, child custody cases and – more and more, recently – child support actions. Still, looking at the bright side really isn’t a luxury but a necessity; and it struck me earlier this week that I was really being inordinately grouchy!

The Bright Side of Working With Divorce, Child Custody, and Probate

Here are a few bright sides to our family law practice here in Minnesota.

1. Helping a client through a difficult divorce, custody dispute, etc.

The old saying that what does not break us makes us stronger can sound smug, I know, but I think it is, for me at least, true. Takes work!

2. Helping a client – and myself — grow to learn to apply the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) prayer

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.” No matter what your belief, or disbelief, in God, I think this works and I am thankful that I have the opportunity at least to try to apply this to myself.

3. Making things go more smoothly in my daily tasks

Which result in more timely and economical delivery of our product – legal opinions – to our clients; with less friction along the way. 4. Hearing that what I do has actually helped someone in their divorce, probate, estate plan, child custody case.

5. Collaborating in the office with our family law and probate attorneys

To provide the best service we can to our clients.

6. In a divorce or probate legal case, successfully balancing

The emotional needs of our clients to the very practical matters of deadlines, paperwork, fees, billing, and so on.

7. Helping mesh everyone’s different styles, strengths, and emotions

In a productive way, whether they be lawyers, opposing counsel, client, vendor, or just me.

8. At the end of the day, knowing I have done my duty

To the firm and to our clients to the best of my ability.

Thank You

 And, to you who are reading this – thank you!

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

Moore Family Law

www.moorefamilylawMN.com

Plymouth, Minnesota

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com