Today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports, "PA high court ends litigation over lawyers' pay in death penalty cases," by Joseph A. Slobodzian. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court has dismissed litigation to reform the way Philadelphia reimburses lawyers appointed to defend indigent clients facing the death penalty.
The four-justice majority filed an unsigned per curiam order Friday that did not explain why the jurists, including Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, decided to end the case.
The majority thanked Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner for his "exemplary efforts and analysis." Castille named Lerner in 2011 to study allegations that Philadelphia's pay scale for lawyers appointed to capital cases was so low it violated their clients' constitutional right to effective counsel.
In July, Lerner reported a marked decrease in the backlog of untried homicide cases. Lerner attributed the decrease to greater analysis by the District Attorney's Office before deciding to seek the death penalty and a February 2012 increase in the flat-rate pay for appointed death-penalty lawyers.
The increase moved the flat rate paid to capital-case trial counsel from $2,000 to $10,000 and the fee for cocounsel in the penalty phase from $1,700 to $7,500. Lawyers also receive $400 a day for any trial longer than five days.
Before the increase, one group found, the original 1997 flat rate had been reduced to the equivalent of $2 an hour for defending someone's life.
Related posts are in the indigent defense category index.