Tennessee taxpayers could be stuck with larger bills if more private attorneys have to act as legal defense for the indigent to make up for budget cuts proposed in the Metro Nashville public defender’s office, representatives of two lawyers’ groups say. The justice system would be slowed by having drop-in private attorneys deal with cases, they say. That could leave the poor who are charged with crimes in jail longer, which increases the bill to taxpayers.
The Metro Council is considering a proposed $1.35 billion budget for fiscal 2004-05, after the mayor pared $100 million to cover this year’s deficit. The council either must approve the mayor’s budget or create another by July 1. A budget document says the public defender’s office would get $4.59 million, a 4.8% decrease. Eleven positions would be lost and six gained, it says.