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Local attorney reacts to pay raise for public defenders

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Last month, a La Crosse County committee endorsed a request to set higher fees for public defenders in Wisconsin.

Last week, the state’s Supreme Court ordered a raise, effective two years from now, for court-appointed attorneys that would set their fee at $100 an hour. Attorneys, however, from the public defender’s office generally are not affected by this ruling.

“It really doesn’t address the main issue and that is lawyers who are appointed by the public defender’s office, who are non-public defenders, are still getting paid $40 an hour, which is the lowest in the country. It’s been that way 50, 40 years,” attorney Keith Belzer of La Crosse said.

Belzer asked the county committee to support the fee increase. He says the high court ruling is a symbolic victory, which could put pressure on the legislature to increase compensation.

“That this is a legislative issue, it’s not a judicial issue,” Belzer said. “Supreme Court felt like they wanted to do something but said they didn’t have the authority to do it because of separation of powers.”

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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