Commission on Indigent Legal Services Takes Over Court Appointed Counsel on July 1

June 30, 2010

On July 1, 2010 the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services assumes responsibility for regulating and paying for court appointed counsel. The Director of Court Information, Mary Ann Lynch, said the Branch and the Commission are on track to transfer responsibility on July 1. The Maine Legislature established the Commission in 2009 to be responsible for the provision of legal services to people who are entitled to counsel at state expense, under the Unites Sates Constitution, or under the Constitution and laws of Maine. Indigent individuals are generally entitled to counsel in criminal proceedings when there is a risk of jail, in child protection cases, where loss of custody is at issue and in mental health cases involving involuntary commitment. This change does not include appointment of Guardians ad Litem in child protective proceedings, who will continue to be appointed and paid by the courts.

The Commission has established competency rules for lawyers who wish to receive assignments as court appointed counsel. Attorneys who are interested in becoming eligible for the roster should go to the Commission’s web site at: www.maine.gov/mcils/ for more information. Judges will continue to assign counsel, generally at arraignment or other initial proceedings where court appointed counsel is mandated. All assignments will be from the Commission’s roster. The judge’s initial assignment will be reviewed and approved the Commission. After June 25, 2010, attorneys seeking payment for services should send bills to the Commission at: Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, Statehouse Station 154, and Augusta, ME 04333.

“Judges and Court and Commission employees have been working very hard in recent months to see that the necessary Civil and Criminal Rule changes, as well as computer systems, and payment procedures have been completed to effectuate this transfer of responsibility from the Judicial to the Commission. This completes a process that began several years ago, when the Indigent Legal Services Commission recommended that the Legislature create a Commission to oversee the delivery of court appointed counsel services, separate and distinct from the Judicial Branch,” said Lynch. “Placing indigent legal services in the Judicial Branch was an historical accident and happened when the State took over the county trial courts in 1976. Creation of the Commission has removed a difficult situation where judges were called upon to appoint and pay for counsel on one side of a proceeding. It had the potential of compromising the independence of counsel.”

FMI: www.maine.gov/mcils/