Six attorneys with public defense contracts in Benton County Superior Court turned in their resignations this week.
Eric Hsu, the indigent defense coordinator for Benton & Franklin Counties, confirmed to the Herald on Friday that some of the public defenders resigned.
But, he said he still is sorting through the situation and didn't have a clear idea what was driving the resignations. He hoped to talk to the attorneys next week.
Nine public defenders are on contract to receive appointments to represent felony defendants in Benton County.
The Herald learned the six lawyers who resigned are: Dan Arnold, Kevin Holt, Scott Johnson, Sal Mendoza Jr., Gary Metro and Larry Zeigler.
Four of the six were reached Friday, but they said they couldn't discuss the issue until next week.
The resignations might be tied to the caseload changes being spurred by a state Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
The justices, in a 7-2 vote, said full-time public defenders should take on no more than 150 felony cases each year or 300 misdemeanor cases.
Lawyers on contract in Benton County Superior Court currently have a 150-case cap and get paid $82,105 a year.
The high court also said attorneys who take on the maximum load will be considered working full time and cannot do any private practice legal work on the side.
A large percentage of the contract attorneys do private work on the side, and some also own law firms.
The guidelines don't go into effect until September 2013, but Hsu has been working on devising a numerical case-weighting system to satisfy the new standards.
A "Request For Qualifications" that Hsu put out recently for new indigent defense contracts shows that Class B and Class C felony cases will count as one point, while Class A felonies count as two.
Complex cases could be assigned an additional two points, at the discretion of Hsu's office.
Some other cases, such as conflict withdrawals and preliminary court appearance coverage, would count for a quarter or half point.
Because of the limitations on private practices, the qualifications request says attorneys who accept contract offers can choose the maximum number of points they want to be appointed each year.
Public defenders can set their limit from 75 points to 140 points per year. Contracted attorneys also will be paid $580 per case point in 2013 and $610 per case point in 2014.
Attorneys receive extra pay for trials.