Yavapai County Public Defender
Kennedy C. Klagge
595 White Spar Road, Prescott, AZ 86303
The mission of the Yavapai County Public Defender is to fully provide the fundamental Constitutional protections afforded by law to our indigent clients, when appointed by the Court, in criminal, juvenile, mental health or appellate proceedings.
The Public Defender has been working diligently to reduce cost and budget overages. This Public Defender has been under budget for the past four fiscal years. In June of 2017, prior to my appointment, this Office was over budget $93,995.98, a significant reduction in our past overages. In June of 2018, this Office was under budget $51,362.49. In June of 2019, this Office was under budget $116,619.54, despite having tried a capital case during the fiscal year. In June of 2020, this Office was under budget $482,598.56. In June of 2021, this Office was under budget $583,738.42.
The shift in contractors, the Conflict Contract Administrator, and internal cost savings have made a significant impact in decreasing those overages. This Office has been historically over budget in Attorney Services, Death Penalty Cases, and Outside Services. However, these line items have been over budget primarily because the costs associated with each of these functions is entirely dependent on crime rates, conflicts, and charging decisions by the County Attorney’s Office.
The amount of Felony matters this fiscal year has increased by twenty-five percent (25%). There has been a fifty percent (50%) increase in Dependency cases as well as a shift in the law that is requiring more attorneys for each case.
We currently only have two open capital cases. Both are pre-trial, one is a conflict for this office and being handled by Contract Attorneys, the other is in-house.
Given the projected numbers, we are concerned about being on budget this Fiscal year. We believe we can meet or nearly meet our obligations with our current funding assuming no more unexpected changes.
Grant funds have remained consistent so far this year. We are hopeful that it will remain consistent next Fiscal Year and will not need to be addressed. We are anticipating using our grant funds to continue funding one full-time Legal Secretary Position and two Attorneys’ Capital First Chair Special Assessment pay.
Additionally, our case management software company has decided to discontinue supporting our current program. We anticipate using grant funds to retain a consultant to assist us in replacing our case management software system. We had intended to do so last year, but the pandemic prevented this from moving forward.
Given the increase in Dependency filings, the change in the law now requiring additional attorneys in several pending and new Dependency cases, and the need to increase our contract rates in Dependency and Delinquency matters, we are asking for increases in the Attorney Contracts and Additional Attorney Services.
We have not adjusted our rates for the Dependency or Delinquency contracts in over a decade and are no longer marketable. Dependency case filings have jumped from just under 400 to just over 600. Additionally, the law has changed and now a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is required in several cases where this type of appointment had not been required. In short, not only more cases but more Attorneys on each case.
This requested increase includes increasing the base fee for Dependency cases from $1,000 for the first 32 hours of work to $1,200 and the hourly rate from $50 to $60 as well as an increase in the anniversary fee from $250 to $300. This request includes increasing the base fee for Delinquency cases from $325 to $375 and the hourly rate from $50 to $60. The hourly fees and anniversary fees in these contracts are paid out of the Additional Attorney Services fund. We have requested a $40,000 increase to cover these adjustments. The flat fees are paid out of the Attorney Contracts fund and will account for the additional $100,000 increase to cover these contract modifications.
We have also included two small increases in previously unfunded categories that we continually find we are using. The first of these is Non- Employee Travel. We have requested $600 for next fiscal year be added to this area. We use these funds to reimburse non-expert witnesses for the travel to attend trials. The second is ASRS ACR; we are asking for $400 to be added to this category. Several of our contract experts and attorneys are former ASRS employees and, thus, we are required to allocate funds accordingly.
We have fully transitioned to a paperless office. As a result, we have requested to decrease to our Office Supplies budget by $5,121. We have also requested a decrease to our Outside Services fund. We have carefully monitored this area and are routinely over budgeted in this area. We have proposed a twenty-five percent decrease totaling $97,500.
When our new additions ($140,000 for Dependency and Delinquency contracts, $400 for ASRS ACR and $600 for Non-employee travel, totaling $141,000) and any new reductions ($5,121 for Office Supplies and $97,500 for Outside Services, totaling $102,621) are balanced out, we are requesting a total budget increase of $38,379.
Our Office continues to collaborate with the Superior Court, County Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, and the Sheriff’s Office to transition clients into treatment and reduce recidivism. We have continued conducting many hearings over the video system to address criminal matters in Yavapai County. Thankfully our Criminal Justice partners agree that continuing in this vein for many proceedings will reduce costs, liability, and increase efficiency in the processing of criminal cases. We will continue to collaborate with the Criminal Justice system, Mental Health system, and Juvenile system to create and innovate efficient and effective outcomes.
We currently have 21 attorneys in the office with caseloads varying between 40 and up to 80 cases depending upon severity. Assignments are adjusted to absorb and react to changes in the type of appointments and assignments made to this office. We are not requesting any new attorney positions at our Office for this Fiscal year.
Your Public Defender’s Office has a dedicated workforce of superior advocates. They are deeply committed to the vision of this Office. Our support staff is not only essential to the function of our Office, but also deeply committed to our vision.
I, with the assistance of Mrs. Todd, Wendy Ross, and County Administration, have endeavored to provide effective leadership to this Office and hope to do so for many years to come. I hope you find the proposed Budget acceptable. I wish to make myself available to you all to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.