AUGUSTA — Bills from lawyers representing indigent defendants will be paid sooner rather than later now that the governor stepped in with some emergency funding.

A note to attorneys from John Pelletier, executive director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, thanked the governor for taking action and said the infusion of just over $900,000 means the commission has the ability to pay attorneys’ bills from May 10, which is when the money ran out.

Indigent defendants are those who face jail time and can’t afford a lawyer, so they’re appointed one.

“We should be back on our regular payment schedule by early next week, and we will be able to maintain that schedule for the rest of the fiscal year,” Pelletier wrote.

Rob Ruffner, a Portland-based attorney, had drawn attention to the shortfall and almost a six-week wait for payment when he withdrew from representing all his appointed clients a week ago.

He said early this week he will not resume accepting court-appointed cases until the $50 per hour rate of pay is increased. It has remained at that rate since 1999.

“We can no longer afford to be a government that delays payments to those who provide services to Maine people. Indigent legal services are important as are our hospitals and medical providers,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement released today. “Paying our bills is a priority of my administration.”


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