Supes may release $2.2M for legal defense

The Superior Court’s request of more than $2 million was supported by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, who on Wednesday sent the request to the full board for a vote. The money would come from the budget’s general fund reserve and the release of the money would require a two-thirds vote by the board.

 “We are here before you today to sound like a broken record and request $2.2 million for supplemental appropriation,” said Michael Yuen, court executive officer. “The reason why we are requesting this is due to increased case load.”

Committee chair Supervisor John Avalos noted that “We had anticipated your coming here earlier this year.”

The $2.2 million supplemental was requested for closing out the cost of cases for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

In fiscal year 2009-2010, the court’s indigent defense program handled 10,567 cases, up from the previous year’s 7,501 cases. The costs increased from $8.8 million to $12.8 million, which breaks down to the average cost per case increasing from $1,175 to $1,217.

“Two years ago we had 3,700 felonies. For the fiscal year that just ended we had 4,800 felonies,” Yuen said. “Felonies by far are the most expensive type of cases that we handle.”

Misdemeanors increased from 4,082 in fiscal year 2008-09 to almost 11,000 in fiscal year 2009-2010.

Politics have also colored the debate over The City’s cost of providing legal defense, either through the Superior Court system or through the Public Defender’s Office.

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