There will be more court-appointed attorneys available to represent poor people in court under Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget.
In his proposal, Bevin set aside funds to add 44 lawyers to the Department of Public Advocacy’s ranks of 333 public defenders.
Ed Monahan, the state’s chief public defender, said the move would help the agency reduce caseloads for its overworked advocates.
“We’re very fortunate that this governor has recognized that if we had additional capacity, that it would not only deal with the unethical levels of cases we have, but it will be one of the best business investments that can be made when you look at this criminal justice system,” Monahan said during a presentation to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and the Judiciary on Thursday.
Monahan said the move is a step in the right direction, but the agency will still be subject to other reductions if Bevin’s proposal to cut most state agencies by 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent for the next two years is approved by the General Assembly.
Kentucky public defenders represent clients who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. They handled about 153,000 cases in 2015, up from 137,000 in 2006.