Tennessee Supreme Court Releases Statement on Indigent Representation Funding Increase

The Tennessee Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) appreciate the work of the General Assembly in the 2024 Legislative Session, especially the approval of $8.6 million in additional funding for indigent representation which will allow the Judicial Branch to take an essential and significant step forward in addressing adequate compensation of appointed counsel.

“I’m grateful for our judges who spoke forcefully about their struggle to find lawyers willing to take indigent cases- nearly half of which are in juvenile court and involve families and children in neglect or abuse cases. I’m grateful for the lawyers who explained how an extremely low rate of reimbursement impacted their ability to represent indigent parties. And I’m grateful for the elected leaders who listened with open hearts and minds and took action,” said Chief Justice Holly Kirby. “We have more work to do, but this additional funding will allow the Court to respond to the impending crisis in the administration of justice in Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court sets the hourly reimbursement rate and caps for court-appointed attorneys representing indigent clients under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13, but any increase must be funded through the budget, which is determined by the General Assembly.

The additional funding will provide a $10 increase in the hourly rate of reimbursement for attorneys who accept appointments, along with a proportionate increase in the current cap on the total amount a court-appointed attorney may recoup per case, the first across-the-board rate increase since 1997.

“This has been a top priority for the Supreme Court and the AOC, and we appreciate the work of our legislative leaders, the Governor’s Office, the Tennessee Bar Association and all who have worked together to express the importance of court appointed attorneys in our judicial system,” said AOC Director Michelle Long.  “We look forward to continuing to work with judges, lawyers, the Governor’s Office, and the General Assembly as we invest in the best solutions to improve the system of indigent representation in Tennessee.”