Why You Don’t Want a Court Appointed Attorney in Montgomery County
If you choose to go with a court appointed attorney in Montgomery County, Texas, you should know the facts. Your attorney will be severely overworked and under paid. Under the new system in Montgomery County, Texas court appointed attorneys will receive $60,000 per year for representing 81 criminal defendants at the minimum. That’s about the same amount the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office pays new prosecutors right out of law school with zero experience. According to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, the average court appointed attorney in Montgomery County represented around 40-60 defendants for the 2016 calendar year. So, on average beginning July 1, 2017, your new court appointed attorney will be handling 20 more cases per year and making far less money. That comes out to around $740 per case under the new system. That’s it. No extra pay for legal research. No extra pay for trial preparation. And except for very few exceptional cases, no extra pay to take your case to trial. That’s correct, there is zero incentive for your court appointed lawyer in Montgomery County, Texas to take your case to trial. You think a murder case is worth more than $740 for trial preparation? Experienced criminal defense attorneys spend hundreds of hours preparing for trial on felony offenses. At a minimum, difficult cases require weeks, if not months, of preparation. How many hours of work do you think you will get for $740?
Who’s responsible for this new system? Your local elected officials who are living high on the hog. According to a 2016 Texas Association of Counties Survey, 10 out of the 11 categories for elected officials in Montgomery County are in the top five for compensation statewide. Five of those elected positions were ranked in the top two. Of the 254 counties in Texas, Montgomery County ranks 10th in population and fifth in the annual budget category. Topping the list is the Montgomery County Attorney who pulls in $190,451 per year. Think about that, Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas makes $150,000 per year. The Montgomery County Commissioners, justices of the peace, county treasurer, and constables all rank number two in the State of Texas for their salary and supplements.
To put this in perspective, the Montgomery County Commissioners each earn $164,851. That’s almost as much as the Harris County Commissioners who serve an area that has nine times the population of Montgomery County. Montgomery County has about 459,000 people in it. Harris County has 4.1 million. The Montgomery County Commissioners make over $10,000 more than the commissioners in Dallas County, which is five times bigger than Montgomery County. The five constables in Montgomery County make $127,853, only $2000 less than Harris County. The justices of the peace in Montgomery County come in at $124,250 per year, which is only slightly less than Harris County. The Montgomery County Treasurer makes $14,000 more than the Harris County Treasurer at $131,827.
Here is how the new system works. Each Montgomery County District Court will have only ten attorneys for all their appointed cases. Montgomery County, Texas, currently has four district courts that handle criminal matters. Hence, 40 total lawyers for the entire county. The old system had over three times that number of attorneys handling those same cases. 40 attorneys multiplied by the 81 defendants is 3,240 cases per year that is allocated under the new system. Take those 3,240 criminal defense cases multiplied by the per case average and you get an annual expenditure of around $2.4 million dollars. It seems like a lot of money, but it’s about half the amount which was allocated in the past. So, your elected county officials, who are among the highest paid in the state, want to line their pockets with your money but they don’t want to pay for your defense. Truth be told, each of your elected officials makes over twice what your court appointed lawyer will make this next year. Which job do you think should be paid more money? Some politician that fills a chair? Or the attorney that represents you in a criminal matter that could land you 99 years in the big house? If you follow the news in Texas, you know every year multiple wrongly prosecuted innocent individuals are being released after decades in prison. You’re thinking, “That could never happen to me.” Think again, after reading what happened to Michael Morton. Mr. Morton spent 25 years of a life sentence in a Texas prison until he was exonerated by DNA evidence. What if you were innocent and were facing a possible life sentence? Don’t you think your attorney deserves more than $740 for the defense of your case? Who would want an attorney under those terms, even for a minor offense? What about the defense of your child, who you believe is innocent? To add insult to injury, according the Montgomery County budget, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office (the very office that will be prosecuting you), receives over $10.5 million dollars per year. This does not include the law enforcement resources your government will use against you. That’s four times what the county is paying for the defense of these cases. Which is probably why Montgomery County does not go with a proper public defender’s office. They would have to match the money that is being given to the DA’s office.
The bottom line is that you need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney that is looking out for your best interests. Don’t go with a court appointed attorney. Your freedom is on the line. Call us today. We offer flexible payment plans. Don’t fall into the Montgomery County court appointed lawyer black hole.