WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A massive backlog of cases in Sedgwick County has one private attorney taking on 150 life sentence cases. The state of Kansas has a system for an extensive amount of cases.

Depending on how much experience a public defender has, they usually take on around 10 cases. Cases that public defenders cannot cover then go to a private panel. The panel consists of private attorneys willing to work on these cases at a discounted rate. Mark Sevart is a private attorney on the panel.

“It’s obviously an awful lot of work, but that’s okay. I enjoy practicing law, but I’m putting in a lot of hours right at the moment, and we certainly could use some additional help,” said Sevart.

He says he has over 200 active cases, including upper-level cases among the 150 life sentence cases.

“When you’re doing court-appointed work, you’re generally being compensated at about a third of what you’d normally be charging,” said Sevart.

In order to prevent large turnovers, Sonya Strickland, a chief public defender in Sedgwick County, says new public defenders cannot have too many cases.

“One of my colleagues put it best when he said it’s like we are trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon, so yeah, looking down the road, we certainly have our eye on that issue.”

Heather Cessna, the executive director of the Kansas State Board of Indigents’ Defense Service, has been pushing for the legislature to increase the pay for public defenders to fill openings and retain attorneys.

“To move fast enough to address the problem before we get to a place where, at some point, there is going to be a client who is charged with a very serious felony in court without an attorney standing next to them,” said Cessna.

“Some of the prosecutors may disagree with me, but I would submit that there are cases pending that will be dismissed because of constitutional speedy trial violations and certainly cases that should be dismissed because of that,” said Sevart.

Cessna said, along with pushing for higher wages for her attorneys, she asks legislators to change the private attorney cost from $100 an hour to $125. She hopes that these changes will happen this session.