Public Defense Lawyers Face Overwhelming Work Load

The Minneapolis Star Tribune as a great read on public defenders in Hennepin County. At the core of their story are these sobering facts about the case loads facing the defense attorneys:

With about 750 cases a year, they’re handling nearly twice the number the American Bar Association suggests for each lawyer. Cuts last year eliminated about 50 public defenders, and proposed cuts this year threaten 50 more.

The public criminal defense attorney at the center of their profile, Michael Holland, lives these numbers with a whirlwind schedule packed to the gills with meetings, trials and motions. His workload is so intense, it brings up the question of “affordable justice.” Are defendants without the means to hire a lawyer getting the same justice as those who hire defense lawyers?

That point may be tough to prove. But the numbers are obvious: As the economy remains tight, public defenders’ workload will remain staggeringly high.

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