High Cost Legal Fees

Houston County judges are working to get a handle on the high cost of court-appointed attorneys with the help of a special commission that has been appointed to get the job done.

The first money saving measures could be in place within a few weeks.

It's a legal concept that accused criminals know all to well, "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you."

Taxpayers in Houston County spent more than $2.3 million last year on defense expenses. Convicted felons are supposed to repay that money, but since few do, there was a deficit or more than one million dollars. Even defense attorneys admit there's a problem.

So an indigent defense commission made up of lawyers and public officials is looking at contracting with attorneys for a set fee to handle juvenile cases and hopefully save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Indigent Defense Commission meets again later this month and could have the juvenile attorney contract ready by Oct. 1.

Judge Anderson says if contracting with attorneys to handle juvenile cases proves successful, then the program can be expanded to include district and circuit court cases as well.