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Board sets $75 hourly rate for CHIPS lawyers

The Wadena County Board approved a $75 per hour rate for attorneys appointed to represent clients in Child In Need of Protective Services cases.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd explained the county pays for attorneys on both sides of CHIPS cases, and sometimes the right to counsel is abused. She said some attorneys were hired, paid the county's flat fee for handling the case, then were dismissed by their clients and new attorneys were hired, who also collected the flat fee. In one recent case, Ladd said, each party did this and the county paid the bill for four attorneys in the one matter.

Ladd suggested an hourly rate instead of a flat fee be used after one attorney has been appointed. She suggested the board set the rate at $50 per hour.

"Is it reasonable?" asked County Board Chairman Bill Stearns.

"I get that $50 is less than private practice," Ladd answered, "but this is court-appointed. Any lawyer you're going to ask, they're probably going to tell you it's not enough money."

The board reviewed hourly rates paid to attorneys in other appointment cases, such as emergency guardianships and commitments. Those were paid at $75 per hour.

The board approved an hourly rate of $75 to be paid to attorneys after one had already been appointed for CHIPS cases in the future.