Public Defender Service makes budget plea - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Public Defender Service makes budget plea

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The Public Defender Service Corporation was the latest agency to appear before the Committee on Appropriations.  The agency is in desperate need of funding to provide law and order.

"The truth of the matter," stated Mike Nisperos, "is that we are the redheaded step child of the justice system."  The executive director of the PDSC painted a grim picture for lawmakers as he and his staff are faced with a growing caseload, that admittedly has become hard to keep up with and beyond American Bar Association standards.  "Currently we have 8,646 cases spread across ten and a half attorneys.  I say tend and a half because I carry half of a caseload - so that's roughly 770-800 cases per lawyer." 

The situation is so severe; a moratorium is currently in place on civil cases. Nisperos adding just last year he went to his board of directors to ask them to seriously consider issuing a moratorium on taking any further criminal cases.  "It's so bad that we had to take a look at saying we can't handle any more until we can get rid of some of the backlog that we have so we have a reasonable caseload per attorney," Nisperos added.

The Public Defenders Service Corporation is requesting funding in their next fiscal year's budget for four additional attorneys. With the military buildup on the horizon and attorneys who are reaching the time for retirement, Nisperos says it's critical these new entry level lawyers be brought on board now. He adds although it's not the most attractive job and people may not want to see funding go to represent these types of clients... justice cannot be denied.

"Because politically its not palpable that people would want their tax dollars going to represent a child molester or a murderer or someone whose done something against society's rules," he added.  "But our constitution and our belief in a society that's based upon the rule of law dictates that, that must be provided."

Nisperos during today's budget hearing also took the time to recognize staff and attorneys who have stuck with the corporation all these years, saying it's attributed to their "strength, integrity and dedication".

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