Sunday, December 16, 2012

Iowa Attorney General wants to hire more lawyers

Attorney General Tom Miller says he needs to hire more lawyers to handle prosecutions and criminal appeals.

He told Gov. Terry Branstad during a state budget hearing on Monday that he is requesting $200,000 to pay for two experienced area prosecutors, who will assist county attorneys with serious crimes, particularly murder and sexual assault. Prosecutors are stretched to the limit, traveling an average of 1,000 miles a month, but the number of general criminal attorneys has been reduced from 10 to 7.5 over the last four years, he said.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
Tom Miller
In addition, Miller said he is requesting an additional $150,000 to pay for two entry-level criminal appeals attorneys. Competently defending criminal convictions obtained by county attorneys in a crucial part of the criminal justice system and is critical for public safety, he said.

The caseload for such appeals has increased dramatically the past four years, largely because of a recent rule of the Iowa Supreme Court requiring the briefing of dozens of appeals previously considered frivolous, Miller said. But unlike the state public defender’s office, which can hire outside lawyers to handle criminal appeals, Miller said his office doesn’t have this option.

Miller also said he is passing on the request of Iowa Legal Aid to have its funding increased to $2.4 million from $1.8 million. Because of substantial cuts in federal funding and reductions in other revenues, Iowa Legal Aid is unable to help thousands of eligible individuals, he said.

The attorney general also said his office is working with statewide crime victim coalitions on a regionalization plan to more efficiently deliver victim services. A request for an increased appropriation to develop t his plan is being developed and will be presented to the Iowa Legislature in January, he said.

By William Petroski

Source: DesMoinesRegister

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