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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Wright v. Childree PD-AL-0001
Docket / Court 05-1544 ( State Court )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Case Summary
Plaintiff, an Alabama attorney, filed suit on June 21, 2005, in Montgomery County Circuit Court against the State Comptroller after Plaintiff was denied payment for overhead hours he spent on indigent representation. Plaintiff was denied payment after the State Comptroller began withholding ... read more >
Plaintiff, an Alabama attorney, filed suit on June 21, 2005, in Montgomery County Circuit Court against the State Comptroller after Plaintiff was denied payment for overhead hours he spent on indigent representation. Plaintiff was denied payment after the State Comptroller began withholding overhead payments for all indigent representation by lawyers appointed under Alabama Code § 15-12-21, providing for appointment and compensation of court-appointed trial counsel. These overhead payments were set at $30/hour.

The Comptroller's action withholding hourly overhead payments was based on a February 2005 Opinion of the Attorney General. In that opinion, the Attorney General found that pursuant to a 1999 amendment, Alabama Code § 15-12-21 did not permit hourly overhead payments despite the fact that such payments were the practice and understanding of lawyers, the Comptroller, and the courts for many years.

Plaintiff alleged that the Comptroller's action and the Attorney General opinion represented a mistaken interpretation of state law. Plaintiff also alleged that the issue of overhead had already been decided adversely to the Comptroller in a 2002 judgment out of Covington County Circuit Court. Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, which would require the Comptroller to resume overhead payments and to refund all back payments withheld, certify a class consisting of all lawyers similarly affected, and pay reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The trial court entered a final judgment on September 26, 2005, (amended on September 28, 2005) directing restoration of overhead payments on a statewide basis, but declining to address the other issues of interest and class certification, and declining to award attorney's fees.

Plaintiff filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment on October 11, 2005. The trial court denied Plaintiff's motion on October 14, 2005, and Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal on October 28, 2005. Plaintiff also requested a partial stay of the order directing refunds in order to secure a source of payment of attorney's fees if so ordered, which was denied. Shortly thereafter, the Comptroller filed a cross-appeal challenging the trial court's decision.

On December 22, 2006, Justice Michael F. Bolin of the Alabama Supreme Court issued an opinion holding that Alabama Code § 15-12-21 provided for payment of office-overhead expenses reasonably incurred in the defense of an indigent defendant. However, the court did not reach the issues presented by Plaintiff on appeal (including class certification and attorneys fees) because those issues remain pending before the trial court. The clearinghouse was unable to find additional information on this case, and the case is presumably closed.

Elena Malik - 02/19/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
General
Funding
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Comptroller of the State of Alabama
Plaintiff Description An Alabama attorney representing indigent defendants.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2007 - n/a
Filed 2005
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Victory! Overhead Payments Restored in Alabama!
www.nacdl.org
Date: Jan. 1, 2007
By: NACDL
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
State Supreme Court
02/01/2005
Opinion of the Attorney General
PD-AL-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
State Supreme Court
03/01/2006
Motion of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association for Leave to File Amicus Curiae Brief and Brief in Support of Cross-Appellee
PD-AL-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
State Supreme Court
12/22/2006
Opinion (972 So.2d 771)
PD-AL-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Bolin, Michael F (State Supreme Court) show/hide docs
PD-AL-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers King, Troy Robin (Alabama) show/hide docs
PD-AL-0001-0002
Other Lawyers Glassroth, Steve (Alabama) show/hide docs
PD-AL-0001-0003
Van Heest, Joseph P. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PD-AL-0001-0003

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