D.C. Superior Court Judge H. Carl Moultrie I indicated yesterday that he is "totally supportive" of giving a raise to lawyers who represent indigent defendants at the court, but that he strongly opposes the lawyers' current strike for higher fees.
Moultrie released a Sept. 10 letter to D.C. Bar President David Isbell in which he wrote that the bar should "act immediately by lending its powers and prestige to see to it" that legislation to support a raise be passed.
He added, however, that he is "unalterably opposed to a strike or an organized boycott . . . ."
The lawyers went on strike Sept. 6 seeking a raise in fees that haven't changed in 13 years. They currently are paid $30 an hour for court appearances and $20 an hour for work out of court, under terms of the city's Criminal Justice Act.
Striking lawyers, who are scheduled to meet today with the bar's board of governors, hailed Moultrie's letter as the first sign of support from the chief judge.
Moultrie sent copies of the letter to a number of officials, including Mayor Marion Barry, City Council Chairman David A. Clarke, D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy and the heads of the congressional committees that control the District's purse strings.
Council Member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), chairwoman of the judiciary committee, said on Saturday that she has scheduled a proposal to raise rates to $35 an hour for work in or out of court for committee consideration Sept. 21.
In another development, the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating the lawyers' strike as a possible violation of free trade laws, has requested from an attorney representing the striking Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association a list of all members, and detailed information about their meetings.
The attorney for the striking lawyers, Jacob A. Stein, said he has not consulted with his clients about whether to comply with the request.
A spokesman for WTTG-TV (Channel 5) said the commission requested a tape of the station's Page 5 program broadcast Saturday night, which included news clips of interviews with striking lawyers.
"We won't refuse to cooperate," the station's assistant news director, Charles Woolsey, said yesterday. "But news material is news material. We don't turn over tapes without a subpoena."
On another issue involving the courts, Mayor Barry made an unusual trip to the courthouse yesterday to discuss with court officials his order to cut $603,000 out of the court system's budget by the end of the fiscal year.
Court officials on Friday had described the cut in funds as "devastating," saying the courts already have committed all their funds for the rest of the year. Barry ordered the cuts as part of a general belt-tightening throughout city government.
"We just thought we should all get together for a little chat," Barry said afterward.