Legal bills left to counties another unfunded mandate

Published 2:48 pm Saturday, July 5, 2008

Due to a $3.8 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2009, the Minnesota Board of Public Defense, public defenders will no longer represent parents in child protection cases beginning Monday.

However, according to state law, parents must be provided with an attorney if they can’t afford one.

In Mower County, the county commissioners decided to hire their own public defender for those child protection cases. It’s expected to cost $20,000 for the rest of this fiscal year and $40,000 next year.

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County coordinator Craig Oscarson said the last day for CHIPS (Children in need of Protective Services) petitions in district court is Monday.

As counties struggle to budget for this unexpected service, it could mean delays for child protection cases.

This unfunded mandate is terribly unfortunate, both for counties who must now foot the bill and for parents who will have to trudge their way through the sluggish court system.