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Chief Public Defender Bob Hill to increase hiring efforts

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A combination of staff shortages and case backlogs is causing Marion County Chief Public Defender Bob Hill to increase hiring efforts.

Hill used a federal grant to hire 8 attorneys on a contract basis that are handling high profile cases. He also raised the starting pay for new lawyers from $53,000 to $60,000.

“I am convinced our attorneys are going to give everyone the best representation they can get,” Hill said.

Hill said it’s been difficult for his office to retain attorneys, much less, hire new ones. Many seek higher pay and lighter workloads in surrounding counties.

“You know as well as I do, when you lose skilled, trained people, it costs you money. You have to go through and train people,” Hill said.

Jury trials came to a virtual standstill during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, adding to the case load.

Hill stresses that the public defenders office is not below the state’s minimum standard for caseload, to attorney, to case ratio. Cases are taking longer to adjudicate because his office isn’t fully staffed, which could cause a domino effect.

“That will cause court backlogs, it will cause backlogs in the jail, and jail overcrowding, so all parts of the system,” Hill said.

IUPUI’S McKinney School Of Law reported that of it’s 2021 graduating class, 10 graduates went on to be public defenders, while 22 took jobs at prosecutors’ offices in Indiana and beyond.

Hill is working on ways to make his office competitive with other agencies.

“We’ve considered trying a work from home schedule that could make things more palatable. A lot of the attorneys don’t want to do that, but some attorneys do,” Hill said.

Hill added the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is also experiencing a shortage in attorneys.

News 8 asked Chief Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ office for comment, but did not hear back.