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Opinion 636

Question Presented

Is it permissible under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct for a court-appointed criminal defense lawyer to accept payment from a county based on a fee schedule that authorizes fixed fees based on the stage at which the case is disposed of?

A Texas county pays court-appointed lawyers for their services representing indigent criminal defendants according to a fee schedule adopted by the District Court judges in the county.  The fee schedule permits lawyers to choose in advance either to receive the fee specified in the fee schedule for all services provided in a case or to bill by the hour.  The question presented applies only to fees payable pursuant to the fee schedule.

The county’s payment schedule provides that the fixed fee for representation in a criminal case varies depending on the type of disposition of the case.  For example, the fixed fee for pre-indictment dismissals is one-half of the fixed fee payable if a case is disposed of by guilty plea or dismissal after indictment, and the highest fee is paid if the case is tried.

Bluebook Citation

Tex. Comm. On Professional Ethics, Op. 636 (2013)