EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

August 31, 2013

Federal court-appointed lawyers face pay cuts

(Continued)

“The rates we work for are severely discounted rates to begin with,” Christie said. “Now we’re being asked to discount further and defer payment. It’s a very difficult set of circumstances.”

Attorney James Moir, who recently rejoined the pool of lawyers willing to take appointments by the court, says he’ll see a pay cut in a federal case he’s taken on that will stretch well beyond Sept. 1.

“The way I can resolve this is by simply not accepting appointments,” Moir said. “One of the concerns I have is that each criminal defendant has constitutional rights to a competent counsel, and the message being sent to counsel is that you are an expendable part of the system.”

New Hampshire’s chief federal judge, Joseph Laplante, during a sentencing last week, lauded Attorney Michael Shklar for his persistence in keeping a client from being labeled a career drug offender. Shklar managed to have one of Comilus Pope’s Massachusetts convictions thrown out because the case was tainted by that state’s crime lab scandal.

“This case is a great example of how important these programs are,” Laplante said.

Ruoff says he thought about the cuts when he took his wife’s car in for service and noticed the sign saying the garage charges $97 an hour for labor.

“And you want lawyers to represent major cases for about $25 more than that,” Ruoff said. “For a lot of people, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

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