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Panel Considers Ways To Improve Indigent Legal Services

AUGUSTA, Maine - A former Maine chief justice said something needs to give to ensure adequate funding and representation for poor people tried for crimes in Maine.Daniel Wathen said whether the state sticks with the current system or creates a public defender office the key is funding.

The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services held a public hearing last week as the panelists prepare a series of proposals to address the effectiveness of the state's current system to provide legal defense to Maine's poor.

That system is under new scrutiny for lax oversight of the billing practices by the private attorneys commissioned to defend low-income clients. A scathing report released in April detailed significant shortcomings.