Wisconsin struggling to find enough attorneys

MADISON — Wisconsin officials say the state’s low compensation rate for private attorneys is contributing to the shortage of lawyers willing to represent people who can’t afford a private attorney.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports that the state Public Defender’s Office assigns about 40 percent of its approximately 138,000 cases each year to private attorneys.

The office pays attorneys $40 an hour to represent poorer clients, the lowest compensation rate in the U.S. for such cases. A 2015 report from nonpartisan group Sixth Amendment Center says Wisconsin private attorneys need to earn about $42 an hour to make overhead.

Office spokesman Randy Kraft says the state is struggling to find private attorneys willing to take public defender cases.

Bayfield County District Attorney Kim Lawton says the lack of lawyers is delaying victims’ justice.