WAUSAU — Wisconsin Public Radio “Route 51” host Shereen Siewert will welcome Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Michael Moran, Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon and Ashland attorney Blake Gross to discuss how low pay for state public defenders is causing gridlock on the entire Wisconsin court system at 10 a.m. today, July 25.
The Wisconsin State Public Defender’s office can only accommodate the cases of about 60 percent of indigent defendants, so it pays private attorneys to take the additional cases. But, because they pay the lowest rate of any state in the nation, the office struggles to attract attorneys, especially for rural clients. Many defendants wait months for an attorney or even go to trial unrepresented.
Gross will discuss a federal lawsuit stemming from the public defender shortage and explain why the plaintiffs feel their constitutional rights are being violated. Moran, who spent years as a public defender before being elected to the bench in 2011, will talk about the crippling effect the shortage is having on defendants, court calendars, county jails and county budgets. Wetzsteon will explain the ripple effect the shortage is having on her own office, and on the victims who can be forced to wait for months or even years for justice to be served.
“Route 51” airs at 10 a.m. on Thursdays on The Ideas Network stations 101.3 & 91.9/Wausau, AM 930/Auburndale-Stevens Point, 99.1/Stevens Point, 100.9/Marshfield, 90.3/Park Falls, 89.1/Adams-Wisconsin Rapids, and 89.9/Rhinelander-Eagle River. It is re-broadcast Fridays at 7 p.m. on 90.9/Wausau. Program archives are available at wpr.org/route51.