Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Report says Tennessee's public defender program needs more money


  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A new report says Tennessee is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate legal defense to residents who can’t afford an attorney.


The report was compiled over an 18 month period at the request of the Tennessee Supreme Court.


The task force report concludes that Tennessee is failing to provide the state’s system of public defenders with adequate resources to represent indigent residents in court.


The final report makes seven recommendations. Among them: Increase the pay private attorneys receive from the state when they are asked by the courts to defend a poor client.


Jared Mollenkoff, is a Davidson County Assistant Public Defender. He says you can’t really expect an attorney to stay motivated if they’re not being properly paid.


“By the time they get in court for a jury trial on a B Felony or a C Felony, they’ve already maxed out what the AOC is going to pay them and they’re just working for free.”


Mollenkoff says the report’s recommendations, if followed, would move indigent representation in the right direction.


“Trying to ensure that taxpayer’s funds are being used in an efficient manner, but also that guarantees that the quality of representation is the same quality that someone would receive if paying for council.”


Mollenkoff notes that Tennessee’s Supreme Court justices can implement some of the recommended changes themselves, but will need the approval of State Lawmakers to introduce others.


Would you like to review the complete report?