The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a Rice County judge's decision to appoint a private attorney for a parent in a child protection case and have the county pay for it.
The ruling is a step toward resolving who pays for appointed attorneys in child protection cases.
Last year, public defenders stopped representing indigent parents in child protection cases because of legislative budget cuts. Rice County commissioners then passed a resolution saying the county would not pay for appointed attorneys in such cases because these were "non-mandated services."
Two months later, Rice County Judge Tom Neuville appointed a private attorney to represent a parent in a child protection case and ordered the county pay the attorney's fees. The county appealed.
But a three-judge panel of the court of appeals said counties are "obligated ... to pay reasonable compensation to an attorney appointed to represent an indigent parent in the case."