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Fee cap waivers survive budget crunch

Waivers on the fee caps for attorneys who represent indigent defendants will continue after all.

The Senate budget had proposed cutting $600,000 out of this year’s budget and eliminating the $4.2 million projected for each of the next two fiscal years.

The House budget maintained those amounts, and they survived negotiations among the budget conferees and have gone to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature. His predecessor, Tim Kaine, had recommended keeping the waivers, while McDonnell had proposed a 15 percent cut.

The program was slow to catch on, as some attorneys resisted the paperwork and timekeeping required to get the waivers, while some judges were more reluctant than others to approve them.
Attorneys finally started submitting requests for the waivers, and if this year is any indication, $4.2 million won’t be enough to cover their annual cost.

Court officials warned earlier this year that $3 million of the $4.2 million allocated for this year already had been spent by February, so that it appeared likely that no payments would be available after May until the beginning of the next fiscal year.

By Alan Cooper

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