Documents reveal lawyers' billing in Smith Co. court budget battle

Documents reveal lawyers' billing in Smith Co. court budget battle

CBS 19 obtained on Monday memos from the Smith County Auditor's office addressing the continued stream of bills being received by the county from attorneys working in the 321st District Court.

In July--and following a month of discussion--commissioners cut off some of the funding to Smith County's family court because the court was more than $300,000 over its approximately $700,000 budget.

County commissioners identified hourly attorneys as the problem. Those attorneys were being brought in to supplement nine contracted attorneys on cases involving children or poor defendants.

By definition, the hourly ones lacked the fixed and predictable costs of their contracted counterparts. However, according to invoices, the hourly attorneys kept working past an announced cut-off date of July 18. Those attorneys cited ethical obligations to clients.

During an August 27 meeting, commissioners denied payment on nearly $4,000 worth of work. Since then, the total unpaid claims have shot up to $6,795.

None of the attorneys involved in billing the county for additional time responded to phone calls from CBS 19.

As of Monday, the 321st District Court had moved all cases to contracted attorneys.


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