The Minnesota State Bar Association will weigh in this week on whether attorney registration fees, for the first time, should help fund the public defender system.
The Minnesota Supreme Court is considering two proposals that would raise an attorney's annual registration fee by up to $100 per year. State Bar President Mike Ford said those fees currently help pay for low-income people to hire lawyers for civil cases, and using them to fund the public defender system would be controversial.
"There's a fair number of attorneys who believe that the public defense function is a societal obligation that the whole society needs to fund," Ford said. "Whereas, civil legal services are not yet a societal obligation, although some people feel that it should be. So we'll see. It should be a lively debate."
The state bar association assembly will take up the issue at its annual convention, which runs Wednesday through Friday in Duluth.