Commission asks for $62M for indigent legal system on ‘point of failure’

The commission that oversees legal services for criminal defendants who can’t afford their own lawyers voted Monday to recommend a $62.1 million budget next year, more than double what the state currently spends, to respond to what several officials described as a system in crisis.

The vote comes at an urgent time for the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, or MCILS, which acknowledged for the first time Monday that 10 defendants in Aroostook County didn’t have lawyers and that the courts haven’t been able to find qualified attorneys to represent them.

“We have in the past been talking about getting to the point where we’re in danger of not being able to assign counsel, we are now there,” commission Chair Josh Tardy said. “We know we are at a critical point and at some point the appropriators are going to have to acknowledge that and provide the funds or the system will collapse.”

Commission asks for $62M for indigent legal system on ‘point of failure’