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New Jersey Takes First Steps in Eliminating Public Defender Fees

by Jordan Arizmendi

Although advocates say there is still work to do to ensure New Jersey public defenders don’t come with a price tag attached, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) took the first giant step earlier this summer when he signed a bill removing burdensome fees that clients of public defenders are forced to pay.

Still, there are hurdles that the New Jersey justice system must overcome to provide completely free legal assistance for those who need it. For example, an individual tried in a municipal court could still incur fees as high as $200 for just applying for court-appointed assistance.

Before Murphy signed this bill, individuals seeking legal help from New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender would pay increasing fees depending on a variety of factors. For example, more severe charges would result in higher fees, as would the speed with which the public defender was able to resolve the case.

“The goal would be to eliminate [counsel fees] across the board. No one should have to have their right to counsel come with a price tag,” said Marleina Ubel, Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective.  

Source: The Appeal

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