CHARLESTON – On a request from Gov. Joe Manchin, state lawmakers this week approved a $21 million special appropriation to pay court-appointed lawyers statewide.
The measure came after the executive director of the state Public Defender Services said it spent its $31.7 million budget for the current fiscal year by March 10, according to The Associated Press.
The fiscal year doesn't end until June 30.
Jack Rogers, the agency's director, blamed the budgetary dilemma on new procedures for lawyers appointed to represent the indigent to timely turn in forms seeking payment.
"Shortening that time period brought all sorts of claims out of the woodwork,'' Rogers told the AP. "People, I presume, cleaned out the file cabinets.''
Other lawyers were complaining that they were owed tens of thousands of dollars for their work as public defenders. At least one had said they were considering closing their practice because of the lack of payment.
Another lawyer complained that if the state did not keep up with payments, they would cease taking on child abuse and neglect cases. This, according to the AP, prompted a Northern Panhandle circuit judge to call on the Supreme Court to seek extra funding.
About 80 percent of all cases brought in the state involve court-appointed lawyers, the AP reported.