The Medical Examiner’s Office will begin charging hourly fees for testifying in civil cases and cases outside of its jurisdiction.

El Paso County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved the motion made by Dr. Mario A. Rascon, chief medical examiner, who said it was a standard practice in other counties, such as Travis County.

“This is to protect the significant investment that the county has made on the Medical Examiner’s Office and making sure that our time is spent where we belong,” Rascon said. There will be no charge for testifying in a criminal case within the office’s jurisdiction.

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The fee will be $500 an hour for a medical examiner with a cap of $4,000 per day for interviews over the phone or in person. The fees include travel and waiting time. The hourly fee for investigators who are called to testify will be $175.

Before voting, Commissioner Vince Perez asked how often medical examiners were called to testify.

“It’s rather frequent and it’s precisely because we don’t have a fee schedule, I’m afraid,” Rascon said. “There is a lot of civil litigation,” such as with work-related deaths.

Rascon said he believes the number of requests from private law firms will decrease with the fees.

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Commissioner Andrew Haggerty said the fee schedule makes sense and that the county is otherwise “being taken advantage of.” 

“We have had our fair share of lawsuits as a county and we have had to pay a lot of money…