Attorney Fee Cap In Florida Capital Cases
In White v. Board of County Comm'rs of Pinellas County, 537 So. 2d 1376 (Fla. 1989) the Florida Supreme Court recognized that this statutory cap may be exceeded in capital felony cases because they involve extraordinary and unusual circumstances.
In White, the court discussed the relationship between the amount of the fee and a defendant's right to competent and effective representation, as follows:
It must be remembered that an indigent defendant's right to competent and effective representation, not the attorney's right to reasonable compensation, gives rise to the necessity of exceeding the statutory fee cap. the relationship between an attorney's compensation and the quality of his or her representation cannot be ignored. It may be difficult for an attorney to disregard that he or she may not be reasonably compensated for the legal services provided due to the statutory fee limit. As a result, there is a risk that the attorney may spend fewer hours than required representing the defendant or may prematurely accept a negotiated plea that is not in the best interest of the defendant. a spectre is then raised that the defendant received less than the adequate, effective representation to which he or she is entitled, the very injustice appointed counsel was intended to remedy. White, 537 So. 2d at 1379-80.
the court agreed with Judge Lehan's dissenting opinion in White v. Board of County Comm'rs for Pinellas County, 524 So. 2d 428, 431 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988) stating:
The court may exercise its inherent power to depart from the statutory maximum "when legislatively-fixed attorney's fees become so out of line with reality they materially impair the abilities of officers of the courts to fulfill their roles of defending the indigent and curtail the inherent powers of the courts to appoint attorneys to those roles." White, 537 So. 2d at 1378.
The White court held it would be inequitable to enforce the statutory maximum fee cap, stating its purpose as ensuring "the court's ability to secure competent, experienced counsel to represent indigent defendants in capital cases." Id. at 1380.