Cases are being pushed months, even years, behind due to the public defender shortage in Wisconsin. Experts say it will take years to overcome the pileup of cases within the Wisconsin courts.
Why is This Happening?
Public defender pay has remained unchanged for many years, although the amount of work demanded from them has only increased. According to data provided by Wisconsin’s public defender’s office, the number of cases sitting on the desks of public defenders was 32,000 before the pandemic and is now 64,000 as of May this year. SPD spokesperson Wilson Medina states, “This is unsustainable and can potentially jeopardize the constitutional rights of our clients throughout the state.” In addition, the pandemic caused many counties to put jury trials on hold due to public health and safety concerns. Many prosecutors, judges, and attorneys feared the upcoming pileup we are now experiencing.
The Struggles of The Defendants
The defendants are not unharmed by the backlog. Some of them are in jail for months while waiting for their case. Others are losing residences and jobs. The issue is larger than it seems.
How Will This Be Fixed?
Since public defender pay remains too low for people to desire to work in this field, the first step to solving this dilemma is to increase funding for public defenders. This would encourage more young lawyers to become public defenders rather than working for a private firm. Since public defenders are so overbooked, it is hard to find enough of them who are qualified for the more complex cases such as shootings, homicides, or reckless driving. A change must occur. With the current status of the pileup in cases, it could take the court system years to get through the cases they already have.
One way to avoid becoming a victim of the backlog is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney of your own. The protection of your rights, reputation, and future is too important to be delayed.