I don't hear it often, but every once in a while, I hear that age old accusation... public defenders get paid by the plea.
Sometimes I worry about the economy since that fee seems so stagnant. It's been $50 for a while now. What, we don't deserve a raise?
Sometimes I like to think about how much I could really make if I was paid $50 per plea. I think $50K sounds like a fair salary for a young public defender... so I would have to have a goal of 1,000 pleas a year. I think that I might have about 1,000 cases a year. So, I would have to take pleas on every single case. Maybe I'd even have to go out and make some business if I needed a little extra money? Would I have to set people up to get arrested? Steal my colleagues' clients and plea them out?
Is 1,000 pleas a year even feasible? Let's see, 365 days per year... minus about 52 weekends (2 days per weekend is 104 days) brings us to 261. Figure about 10 holidays per year is 251. Figure about 10 sick days per year is 241. And then lets say 2 weeks vacation, I like to take at least that much, leaves us at 227. That's about 4 pleas per day. Not to mention that I usually spend a few weeks on trial per year (and can't take any pleas during that time.)
Sometimes I wonder about other perks of the job and how they fit into this $50 per plea salary scale. Would that be $50 per plea PLUS health insurance or pension. Would taxes be taken out of that $50 per plea? I don't even know if I'd get paid holidays, vacation and sick days. Maybe that's due to the fact that so many of my clients have jobs where they are strictly paid per hour or per job with no other perks (prostitutes and drug dealers don't have a great HMO), so they probably don't know much about the perks of the professional world.
But what really got me thinking about the pay-per-plea scheme today is the fact that I just realized yesterday that I haven't taken a plea in just over one month. Nothing intentional, it has just worked that way. I took a few days off, I was on trial for a week, and things were slow around the courthouse the week of Thanksgiving. So I haven't taken any pleas.
And I started thinking, "Thank God I don't get paid per plea... I wouldn't have any money for Christmas shopping!"