• Bill Raines

Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Salary to Increase in 2023

LAWRENCE COUNTY - JULY 25, 2022 - The salary for Lawrence County Chief Public Defender will increase on January 1, 2023, as well as the hourly rates for non- capital and capital attorneys will also increase.


Lawrence County Chief Public Defender Tim Sledd at a previous county council meeting


The delay in the increases is to give an opportunity for county-based public defense systems to factor the increases in to the county budget process.


The proposed budget for 2022 stood at approximately $1 Million, with the Lawrence County council voting on a budget of just over $900,000.


Lawrence County Public defender board which consists of Brent Steele, Bill Spreen and Jerry Hill just recently named Tim Sledd as Chief Public Defender Tim Sledd who replaced Bruce Andis who will be retiring in September.


New Salaries for Public Defenders in January 2023


  • Chief Public Defender - $165,276

  • Chief Deputy Public Defender - $123,957

  • Non- capital case hourly rate - $100

  • Captial Death Penalty Case hourly rate - $136

This will be effective on January 1, 2024, the Indiana Public Commission has approved changes to guidelines that accompany standard to caseloads. A public defender must not be paid not less than $80,000 and a half-time salaried or contract public defender not less than $40,000. If a county does not want to contract for a full-time public defender at $80,000 then the caseload shall be reduced to not to exceed the percentage of the public defender's compensation compared to $80,000 or the compensation of the deputy prosecutor in a similar position effective January 1, 2024.


The Indiana Public Defender Commission has established quarterly limits for proper attorney caseloads.


New Standard to go in effect on January 1, 2024


Over the last three years, the Lawrence County Council has tried to deal with the staffing issues and pay of all the county offices related to the courts which included the court reporters, and public defender's office. This while trying to keep the taxpayers in mind when addressing these issues.


However, despite those increase in salary increases, and staffing levels the county council has learned their salary increases still are not keeping up with the private sector jobs who are paying more. This has in return left a revolving door in and out of the public defender's office over the last three years.


Lawrence County is a member of the Indiana Public Defender Commission which is reimbursed 40 percent if they follow the guidelines of the commission.


ISSUES REMAIN SINCE 2020


However, due to low staffing levels Lawrence County Public Defender's Office in June 2020 did not accept any cases because of excessive caseloads and could not accept any new cases from June 19, 2020, through July 1, 2020. During that time the Lawrence County Council tabled an open full-time position into two-part positions was tabled on three separate occasions.


Then, on June 8, 2020, two other attorneys terminated their employment with the agency and a third terminated employment on June 19, 2020. One attorney was hired by a neighboring county public defender office at 62 percent greater than she was being paid by Lawrence County.


The public defender agency and its attorneys have constitutional and ethical responsibilities to provide complete, adequate, and competent representation to all clients.


In August 2021, the Lawrenc County Council received additional request of $50,000 to pay the salary of special public defenders, who did not submit invoices for their services in a timely manner. The issue has since been addressed under Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis at the time.


Lawrence County Council members asked why they were still receiving requests to pay for special public defenders. Andis told the council at the time unless the county approves hiring more public defenders there will always be a need to hire special public defenders.


Special public defenders are also needed in cases of involving a conflict of interest. At this time there is no Chief Deputy Public Defender, but should a Chief Deputy Public Defender be hired, if a conflict arises from both the Chief Public Defender and Chief Deputy Public Defender a special public defender will have to be hired.


The Indiana Public Defender Commission ordered the Lawrence County Public Defender Office not to take on additional cases in 2020 when the public defender's office was short staffed.


Lawrence County received $304,823.65 in compensation from participating in the public defender Commission in 2021 with a total of $2.7 million in total compensation since 2010.


The proposal in 2022 was proposed at $1 Million before being reduced by the Lawrence County Council in the 2022 budget process.


On May 24, 2022, Chief Public Defender Bruce Andis request for a additional $50,000 request was approved but only by a 4-2 vote. Lawrence County Council members Rick Butterfield and Jeff Lynton voting against the additional appropriation. At the time the public defenders were still down three attorneys.


Lawrence County is paying $65,000 when other counties are paying $85,000.


Lawrence County president Scott Smith asked Andis, whether the Public Defender board was active in the budget process and council member Lytton wanted a accurate budget for the public defender's office.


Sledd addressed the Lawrence County Council in the June meeting telling the council members he will be providing better communication when large public defender bills will be coming to the county council. Sledd went on to say that the public defender board will be more active than previously, and better communication will be implemented from his office.


At 31 minutes into this video Chief Public Defender greets the Lawrence County Council


The number of CHNS cases have been reduced but also remain a factor in the amount of contract lawyer reimbursement the county is forced to pay. Every party in a CHNS case must be represented in these types of cases.



The public defender office has moved into the Lawrence County Courthouse Plaza located at 518 16th Street. The budget process for 2023 is about to begin with several issues that may be a factor in the 2023 budget process.


Lawrence County Public Defender's Office has moved to the Courthouse Plaza on 16th Street


Lawrence County Zephyr will be keeping the public informed as the Lawrence County Council goes into the 2023 budget.


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