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Furloughs begin for public defenders


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POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

It is too early to predict whether the furlough of all state deputy public defenders three days per month will cause a backlog of court cases, said state Public Defender Jack Tonaki.

Today is the first furlough day for all 93 lawyers who work for Tonaki. They are among about 900 nonunion public workers Gov. Linda Lingle ordered on furlough three days per month to help deal with the state's budget crisis.

The 93 lawyers represent more than two-thirds of Tonaki's staff of 137. The others are clerical workers, office staff and investigators.

Because the furlough plan started in the middle of the month, the lawyers will lose only 1 1/2 days of pay this month. They will lose a full day of pay today and a half-day of pay next Friday. Starting next month, they will lose three days of pay.

Tonaki said the three days of pay works out to a loss of $700 to $1,200 per month for the deputies, depending on their pay grade.

“;It's very substantial, especially for our young lawyers trying to get their lives started,”; Tonaki said.

He said he has had discussions with prosecutors and the state Judiciary to schedule court hearings and conferences around the furlough days he has chosen for this year and next year. All are on Fridays, and all 93 of his deputies will have the same furlough day. Tonaki said he tried to avoid scheduling furlough days on weeks that have holidays so as not to create too many three-day workweeks.

Even though they will not get paid on days they are scheduled to be on furlough, Tonaki said he knows many deputies will still work to catch up on some of their cases.