Constitutional Law

Fla. Judge Strikes New Statute Requiring Courts to Pay Cost Overruns for Murder Defense Legal Fees

A Florida judge has stricken as unconstitutional a new law requiring courts to pay, out of their own funds, for the cost of court-appointed private attorneys to represent defendants in murder and racketeering cases, once the legal fees exceed the annual amounts budgeted for this purpose by the state legislature.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Sigler said the law violates the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branch guaranteed by the state constitution, the Miami Herald reports.

She ruled last week as requested by attorneys David S. Markus and Terry Lenamon, who sought a declaration that the law is unconstitutional. They were appointed by the court to represent Gregory Martin in a murder case.

The law “makes judges think twice about paying a lawyer, knowing that he or she has to also think about paying his secretary or buying copier paper,” Markus told the newspaper.

The state’s Judicial Administration Commission declined to comment but is expected to appeal Sigler’s ruling.

Additional coverage: “Defense Lawyers Say They Get Less Than Minimum Wage for ‘Token Representation’ Under New Fla. Law”

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