AUGUSTA– Members of the state’s Government Oversight Committee met in Augusta earlier today to look into the Maine Commission of Indigent Legal Services.
Since 2009, the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services has provided court-appointed lawyers to those who can’t afford legal representation.
However, members of the state legislature’s Government Oversight Committee have found some financial vulnerabilities in the program.
“There’s no good system in place to follow a lawyer through the process of representation,” Government Oversight Committee Member Lisa Keim said.
She said for indigent or partially indigent people, there’s not enough accountability for their legal representation.
“There just isn’t a good way to make sure that if a lawyer says ‘I’ve put in 150 hours on this client’ and then they’re billing for another client and multiple clients, there’s no way to tell how much time has really gone in, and if they’re representing the person who’s been assigned to them or if they’ve given off to someone in their firm,” Keim said.
In a meeting early Tuesday, the oversight committee enlisted the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) to investigate how accurate the financial billings for lawyers in the indigent legal services are and to see if there have been any discrepancies economically.
“Primarily we are looking at the way in which the commission and the way the staff that supports the commission conducts financial oversight of the program,” OPEGA’s Director Danielle Fox said.
“Every single person in Maine should be concerned about indigent legal services and the reason why is because they provide a foundational service for our democracy which is to ensure that everyone gets justice,” Keim said
She said OPEGA’s report will take about a year to complete.