A federal judge in North Carolina wants federal authorities to investigate the fees some attorneys have been paid for defending the poor, reports the Charlotte Observer. U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen called U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert after reviewing documents the Observer obtained that raised questions about how some lawyers were billing for jail visits with clients. Records suggest some lawyers appointed in federal cases were double billing for jail visits or billing for visits that didn’t appear in sheriff’s records.
On Sunday, the Observer reported that North Carolina’s system for paying appointed lawyers is vulnerable to errors and abuse. Attorneys who represent the poor work on an honor system. The state, unlike the federal government, doesn’t require the lawyers to file timesheets detailing their work. Judges who are responsible for approving or cutting lawyer fees say they rarely have enough time or information to scrutinize bills for abuse and mistakes. The newspaper found that one high-earning Charlotte lawyer, Lucky Osho, appears to have repeatedly double billed for jail visits. On more than 50 occasions, he submitted multiple bills for expenses such as mileage, parking, and travel time for what records indicate were single visits.