Joint Finance Committee approves public defender salary boost 

According to NBC15, the Joint Finance Committee unanimously approved a plan to increase Wisconsin public defenders’ salaries from around $57,000 to $75,000. The move is intended to address shortages that have exacerbated case backlogs since the pandemic.

The statewide public defender’s office is understaffed by about 20%, and this is only a symptom of the greater issue: fewer lawyers are entering the workforce.

Many of the limited number of attorneys that do join the workforce find private sector jobs more appealing, especially when they graduate with roughly $120,000 in student loans.

Debt forgiveness has been posited by some as a strategy for combatting the shortage. The gap between public and private sector pay, however, remains considerable.

Studies have also shown that increasing public defenders’ pay can help taxpayers save on court fees and costs as well as incarceration expenses. Every dollar spent on a public defender was calculated to save around $6.31.