Maine Commission on 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.

Gregory Rec / Portland Press Herald/pool file photo

Changes could soon come to the system that delivers free legal services to poor people in Maine facing criminal prosecution.

The state of Maine spent more than $21 million last year to provide free lawyers to people who cannot afford legal representation in court. And while defending people accused of crimes can be expensive, much of that amount may be due to overbilling.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

It's become a chronic problem in Maine:  The state has failed to provide enough resources for court-appointed attorneys who represent low income clients.  This year, the funding has dried up two months early.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Attorneys in Maine appointed to defend people who can't afford a lawyer will have to wait nearly two months to get paid after state funding ran out.

The Portland Press Herald reports that court-appointed lawyers won't get paid until the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

John Pelletier, executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, said lawmakers didn't set aside enough money in the two-year budget but had said they would fill the gap if necessary.