Bill would pay $26M owed public defenders in Massachusetts

BOSTON (AP) — Thousands of public defenders in Massachusetts could soon be paid by the state for legal representation they provided to low-income residents.

The Legislature’s House Ways and Means Committee is voting Tuesday on a bill that would provide more than $26 million to cover unpaid expenses dating back several months.

The money is owed to some 3,000 private attorneys who represented indigent defendants during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The backlog stems from what critics say is the Legislature’s chronic underfunding of the Committee on Public Counsel Services, a state agency that provides legal services for those who cannot otherwise afford it.

If approved by the Ways and Means panel, the funding could go before the full House as soon as Wednesday.

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