The Champion

April 2007 , Page 47 

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Indigent Defense

By Malia Brink

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Victory for Court-Appointed Counsel in Alabama

On Dec. 26, 2006, the Alabama Supreme Court restored overhead payments to court-appointed counsel who represent indigent persons charged with criminal offenses. The overhead payments had been suspended in February 2005, after the Alabama attorney general issued an opinion stating that the payment of overhead expenses was not required by statute. The Supreme Court disagreed with the attorney general — unanimously — in Wright v. Childree. As a result, court-appointed counsel will be paid overhead expenses in the future, and will be repaid overhead expenses that had been denied since February 2005.

The dispute involving overhead payments goes back many years. Alabama law provides that court-appointed attorneys must receive a proscribed hourly rate plus “reasonably incurred expenses.” In 1994, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals interpreted reasonable expenses to include overhead expenses.1  

In 1999, the law governi

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