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The Champion

May 2006 , Page 54 

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Public Defense

By Malia Brink

Read more Public Defense columns.

Virginia — General Assembly Session Brings Threat Of A Lawsuit And Proposals For Reform

Virginia has long been infamous for having the lowest fee caps of any state in the country. Court-appointed counsel in Virginia are paid a maximum of about $120 for a juvenile or misdemeanor count, $500 for lesser felonies and $1200 for major felonies. Given the hourly rate set by the Virginia Supreme Court, this limits attorneys to 1.5 hours worth of work in misdemeanor or juvenile cases, 6 hours for lesser felonies and 14 hours for major felonies. Despite more than a dozen reports over thirty years detailing the harms the caps cause to the justice system in Virginia, the General Assembly to take any significant steps toward reform.

In late January, the General Assembly resumed business. The agenda included several proposals for improving indigent defense in the state, including bills to eliminate the fee caps and bills to make the fee caps waivable by the court upon a showing of cause.

In early Fe

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