Senate Bill No. 481
(By Senators Wills, Edgell, Tucker, Kirkendoll, Unger, Yost, Klempa, Kessler (Mr. President) and Plymale)
[Originating in the Committee on The Judiciary;
reported February 16, 2012.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §29-21-13a of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended; and to amend and reenact §49-6-2 of said code, all relating to the compensation and expenses for attorneys appointed by circuit courts in child abuse and neglect proceedings.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §29-21-13a of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted; and that §49-6-2 of said code be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 21. PUBLIC DEFENDER SERVICES.
§29-21-13a. Compensation and expenses for panel attorneys.
(a) All panel attorneys shall maintain detailed and accurate records of the time expended and expenses incurred on behalf of eligible clients and upon completion of each case, exclusive of appeal, shall submit to the appointing court a voucher for services. Claims for fees and expense reimbursements shall be submitted to the appointing court on forms approved by the executive director. The executive director shall establish guidelines for the submission of vouchers and claims for fees and expense reimbursements under this section. Claims submitted more than ninety calendar days after the last date of service shall be rejected unless, for good cause, the appointing court authorizes in writing an extension. Provided, That Claims where the last date of service occurred prior to July 1, 2008, shall be rejected unless submitted prior to January 2, 2009.
The appointing court shall review the voucher to determine if the time and expense claims are reasonable, necessary and valid, and shall forward the voucher to the agency with an order approving payment of the claimed amount or of a lesser sum the court considers appropriate.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section to the contrary, Public Defender Services may pay by direct bill, prior to the completion of the case, litigation expenses incurred by attorneys appointed under this article.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section to the contrary, a panel attorney may be compensated for services rendered and reimbursed for expenses incurred prior to the completion of the case where: (1) More than six months have expired since the commencement of the panel attorney's representation in the case; and (2) no prior payment of attorney fees has been made to the panel attorney by Public Defender Services during the case. The executive director in his or her discretion, may authorize periodic payments where ongoing representation extends beyond six months in duration. The amounts of any fees or expenses paid to the panel attorney on an interim basis, when combined with any amounts paid to the panel attorney at the conclusion of the case, shall not exceed the limitations on fees and expenses imposed by this section.
(d) In each case in which a panel attorney provides legal representation under this article, and in each appeal after conviction in circuit court, the panel attorney shall be compensated at the following rates for actual and necessary time expended for services performed and expenses incurred subsequent to the effective date of this article:
(1) For attorney's work performed out of court, compensation shall be at the rate of $45 per hour. Provided, That attorneys who are appointed to represent parties in child abuse and neglect proceedings under article six, chapter forty-nine of this code shall be compensated at the rate of $75 per hour for work performed out of court or not attending multi disciplinary training, upon certification of training required under section two, article six, chapter forty-nine of this code. For paralegal's work performed out of court for the attorney, compensation shall be at the rate of the paralegal's regular compensation on an hourly basis or, if salaried, at the hourly rate of compensation which would produce the paralegal's current salary, but in no event shall the compensation exceed $20 per hour. Out-of-court work includes, but is not limited to, travel, interviews of clients or witnesses, preparation of pleadings and prehearing or pretrial research.
(2) For attorney's work performed in court, compensation shall be at the rate of $65 per hour. No compensation for paralegal's work performed in court shall be allowed. In-court work includes, but is not limited to, all time spent awaiting hearing or trial before a judge, magistrate, special master or other judicial officer. Provided, That attorneys who are appointed to represent parties in child abuse and neglect proceedings under article six, chapter forty-nine of this code shall be compensated at the rate of $95 per hour for work performed in court or attending multi disciplinary training, upon certification of training required under section two, article six, chapter forty-nine of this code.
(3) The maximum amount of compensation for out-of-court and in-court work under this subsection is, as follows:
(1) fFor proceedings of any kind involving felonies for which a penalty of life imprisonment may be imposed, the amount as the court may approve.;
(2) For child abuse and neglect proceedings the maximum amount is $5,000 unless the court, for good cause shown, approves payment of a larger sum;
(3) For all other eligible proceedings, three thousand dollars proceedings, the maximum amount is $3,000 unless the court, for good cause shown, approves payment of a larger sum.
(e) Actual and necessary expenses incurred in providing legal representation for proceedings of any kind involving felonies for which a penalty of life imprisonment may be imposed, including, but not limited to, expenses for travel, transcripts, salaried or contracted investigative services and expert witnesses, shall be reimbursed in an amount as the court may approve. For all other eligible proceedings, actual and necessary expenses incurred in providing legal representation, including, but not limited to, expenses for travel, transcripts, salaried or contracted investigative services and expert witnesses, shall be reimbursed to a maximum of $1,500 unless the court, for good cause shown, approves reimbursement of a larger sum.
Expense vouchers shall specifically set forth the nature, amount and purpose of expenses incurred and shall provide receipts, invoices or other documentation required by the executive director and the State Auditor:
(1) (A) Reimbursement of expenses for production of transcripts of proceedings reported by a court reporter is limited to the cost per original page and per copy page as set forth in section four, article seven, chapter fifty-one of this code.
(B) (i) There shall be is no reimbursement of expenses for or production of a transcript of a preliminary hearing before a magistrate or juvenile referee or of a magistrate court trial where such the hearing or trial has also been recorded electronically in accordance with the provisions of section eight, article five, chapter fifty of this code or court rule.
(ii) Reimbursement of the expense of an appearance fee for a court reporter who reports a proceeding other than one described in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph, is limited to $25. Where a transcript of a proceeding is produced, there shall be is no reimbursement for the expense of any appearance fee.
(iii) Except for the appearance fees provided in this paragraph, there shall be is no reimbursement for hourly court reporters' fees or fees for other time expended by the court reporter, either at the proceeding or traveling to or from the proceeding.
(C) Reimbursement of the cost of transcription of tapes electronically recorded during preliminary hearings or magistrate court trials is limited to $1 per page.
(2) Reimbursement for any travel expense incurred in an eligible a proceeding is limited to the rates for the reimbursement of travel expenses established by rules promulgated by the Governor pursuant to the provisions of section eleven, article eight, chapter twelve of this code and administered by the Secretary of the Department of Administration pursuant to the provisions of section forty-eight, article three, chapter five-a of this code.
(3) Reimbursement for investigative services is limited to a rate of $30 per hour for work performed by an investigator.
(f) For purposes of compensation under this section, an appeal from magistrate court to circuit court, an appeal from a final order of the circuit court or a proceeding seeking an extraordinary remedy made to the Supreme Court of Appeals shall be is considered a separate case.
(g) Vouchers submitted under this section shall specifically set forth the nature of the service rendered, the stage of proceeding or type of hearing involved, the date and place the service was rendered and the amount of time expended in each instance. All time claimed on the vouchers shall be itemized to the nearest tenth of an hour. If the charge against the eligible client for which services were rendered is one of several charges involving multiple warrants or indictments, the voucher shall indicate the fact and sufficiently identify the several charges so as to enable the court to avoid a duplication of compensation for services rendered. The executive director shall refuse to requisition payment for any voucher which is not in conformity with the record keeping, compensation or other provisions of this article or the voucher guidelines established issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and in such circumstance shall return the voucher to the court or to the service provider for further review or correction.
(h) Vouchers submitted under this section after July 1, 2008, shall be reimbursed within ninety days of receipt. Reimbursements after ninety days shall bear interest from the ninety-first day at the legal rate in effect for the calendar year in which payment is due.
(i) Vouchers submitted for fees and expenses involving child abuse and neglect cases shall be processed for payment before processing vouchers submitted for all other cases.
§49-6-2. Petition to court when child believed neglected or abused--Right to counsel; improvement period; hearing; priority of proceeding; transcript.
(a) In any proceeding under the provisions of this article, the child, his or her or parents and his or her legally established custodian or other persons standing in loco parentis to him or her shall have the right to be represented by counsel at every stage of the proceedings and shall be informed by the court of their right to be so represented and that if they cannot pay for the services of counsel, that counsel will be appointed. Counsel of the child shall be appointed in the initial order. If the order gives physical custody of the child to the state, the initial order shall appoint counsel for the parents or, if the parents are separated or divorced, the parents or parent or other person or persons standing in loco parentis who had physical custody of the child for the majority of the time in the period immediately preceding the petition: Provided, That such representation shall only continue after the first appearance if the parent or other persons standing in loco parentis cannot pay for the services of counsel. Counsel for other parties shall only be appointed upon request for appointment of counsel. If the requesting parties have not retained counsel and cannot pay for the services of counsel, the court shall, by order entered of record, appoint an attorney or attorneys to represent the other party or parties and so inform the parties. Under no circumstances may the same attorney represent both the child and the other party or parties, nor shall the same attorney represent both parents or custodians. However, one attorney may represent both parents or custodians where both parents or guardians consent to this representation after the attorney fully discloses to the client the possible conflict and where the attorney assures the court that she or he or she is able to represent each client without impairing her or his or her professional judgment; however, if more than one child from a family is involved in the proceeding, one attorney may represent all the children. A parent who has been judicially determined to be battered shall be entitled to his or her own attorney. The court may allow to each attorney so appointed a fee in the same amount which appointed counsel can receive in felony cases. Any attorney appointed pursuant to this section shall by July 1, 1993, and three hours per year each year thereafter, receive a minimum of three hours of continuing legal education training on representation of children, child abuse and neglect: Provided, however, That where no attorney who has completed this training is available for such appointment, the court shall appoint a competent attorney with demonstrated knowledge of child welfare law to represent the child. Any attorney appointed pursuant to this section shall perform all duties required as an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of West Virginia.
(b) In any proceeding brought pursuant to the provisions of this article, the court may grant any respondent an improvement period in accord with the provisions of this article. During such period, the court may require temporary custody with a responsible person which has been found to be a fit and proper person for the temporary custody of the child or children or the state department or other agency during the improvement period. An order granting such improvement period shall require the department to prepare and submit to the court a family case plan in accordance with the provisions of section three, article six-d of this chapter.
(c) In any proceeding pursuant to the provisions of this article, the party or parties having custodial or other parental rights or responsibilities to the child shall be afforded a meaningful opportunity to be heard, including the opportunity to testify and to present and cross-examine witnesses. The petition shall not be taken as confessed. A transcript or recording shall be made of all proceedings unless waived by all parties to the proceeding. The rules of evidence shall apply. Where relevant, the court shall consider the efforts of the state department to remedy the alleged circumstances. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court shall make a determination based upon the evidence and shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law as to whether such child is abused or neglected and, if applicable, whether the parent, guardian, or custodian is a battered parent, all of which shall be incorporated into the order of the court. The findings must be based upon conditions existing at the time of the filing of the petition and proven by clear and convincing proof.
(d) Any petition filed and any proceeding held under the provisions of this article shall, to the extent practicable, be given priority over any other civil action before the court, except proceedings under article two-a, chapter forty-eight of this code and actions in which trial is in progress. Any petition filed under the provisions of this article shall be docketed immediately upon filing. Any hearing to be held at the end of an improvement period and any other hearing to be held during any proceedings under the provisions of this article shall be held as nearly as practicable on successive days and, with respect to said hearing to be held at the end of an improvement period, shall be held as close in time as possible after the end of said improvement period and shall be held within sixty days of the termination of such improvement period.
(e) Following the court's determination, it shall be inquired of the parents or custodians whether or not appeal is desired and the response transcribed. A negative response shall not be construed as a waiver. The evidence shall be transcribed and made available to the parties or their counsel as soon as practicable, if the same is required for purposes of further proceedings. If an indigent person intends to pursue further proceedings, the court reporter shall furnish a transcript of the hearing without cost to the indigent person if an affidavit is filed stating that he or she cannot pay therefor.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to increase the hourly rate for attorneys who are appointed in child abuse and neglect matters.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.