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  • Being a prosecutor doesn't pay

    http://www.journaltimes.com/articles...c430373103.txt
    Being a prosecutor doesn't pay

    When Mike Luell went to law school, he knew what he wanted to do when he got out.

    “I got my law degree for one reason and one reason only: To be a prosecutor,” he said. “I love my job. I love the people I work with.”

    But last month, Luell left the courtroom for a patrol car. He gave up his job as an assistant district attorney to become a police officer.

    He said that stagnant pay, with no hope of change in the system, forced him to leave. And he’s not alone.

    Michael Luell is given the oath of office by Oak Creek Clerk Pamela Bauer Monday afternoon, January 19, 2009, at the Oak Creek Police Department. The former Racine assistant district attorney is becoming an Oak Creek police officer. / Gregory Shaver, Journal Times

    Last year, six attorneys — one-third of the office — left their jobs with the Racine County District Attorney’s Office. Two retired, one moved for personal reasons and three left because of pay.

    Luell started with the Racine County District Attorney’s Office as an intern. He was hired full time in May 2000. After more than eight years with the office, he was making $50,000 a year, he said. New attorneys were being offered salaries of $48,000.

    Luell, like most attorneys, came out of law school with significant debt. He and his wife, who is also an attorney, pay more than $900 a month on their student loans, slowly knocking down their $120,000 school debt.

    Luell said district attorneys were given “horrible” contracts with 1 percent pay raises, insurance increases and rolling layoffs.

    Eventually, Luell said, he and his wife felt something needed to change. He knew he could make more as an attorney with a private firm, but he wasn’t interested.

    “I have a true passion for criminal justice,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything else.”

    He looked at federal law enforcement, but wanted to stay local. When he saw that the Oak Creek Police Department had an opening, he applied. Out of more than 80 applicants, Luell was the top choice.

    Tom Bauer, chief of police in Oak Creek, believed Luell would be a good addition, but said his career change indicates a bigger problem.

    “We can’t lose (district attorneys),” he said. “It’s a sign of a crumbling system and it’s a system that can’t crumble.”

    Not alone

    Luell wasn’t the first assistant district attorney to leave the office over pay.

    Marc Christopher left late last year for a job at Yost and Baill in Milwaukee.

    Like Luell, Christopher loved being a prosecutor. But when his son was born in March, Christopher and his family were faced with significant new costs.

    He worked part-time teaching at a Milwaukee technical college to make extra money.

    “Between the demands of being a prosecutor and the extra 15-20 hours teaching at night, I had to do some introspection and decide if I could continue to do this,” Christopher said. “I decided that I couldn’t.”

    His student loan debt was a major contributor to his decision to leave the District Attorney’s Office. He graduated with a law degree and $60,000 in student loan debt. Loan payments were between $600 and $700 a month,

    Christopher said.

    “When we got to the bare minimum I had to make some tough decisions career-wise,” he said. “I miss doing it every day.”

    Christopher now does insurance law and business litigation and makes about $17,000 more each year.

    Recent problem

    Racine County District Attorney Michael Nieskes said that historically, the office has been a stable one. Over the last five years, that has changed, he said, and money is often the reason behind the moves.

    Nieskes said the problem can be traced back to when the state took over payment of salary and benefits for Wisconsin’s district attorneys.

    From 1990 to 2001, Nieskes said, merit raises allowed attorneys to move through the pay scale as they gained experience. Since 2001, Nieskes said, raises have been limited to cost-of-living increases, and movement within the pay scale has stagnated.

    “Mike (Luell) should have been, after nine years, in the middle of the pay range, at about $75,000,” Nieskes said. “He was at just over $50,000. That was just $2,000 over the starting salary. He had not made any significant progress though he clearly was a superior performer by any measure.”

    The state adjusted the starting salary, from $37,500 when Luell was hired to the current $48,000, but made no changes to the rest of the pay scale. With cost-of-living increases across the board, Nieskes said, prosecutors have not seen any significant change in their relative pay.

    “If you’re near the bottom, five years down the line, you’re still near the bottom. You haven’t moved toward the middle,” Nieskes said. “At some point attorneys have to say it’s a matter of what can they provide for their family, so they’re leaving.”

    Nieskes said Luell’s situation is particularly frustrating.

    “He can make more working as a patrol officer than he could as a prosecutor after 10 years,” he said. “That’s just fundamentally wrong.”

    There is no relief in sight. Assistant district attorneys have been working without a contract since July 2007. The state’s budget situation has prompted statewide pay freezes for the next three years, Nieskes said, and the state will approach negotiations with a bargaining standard of zero.

    Long term, Nieskes said, if attorneys do not stay with the office, there will eventually be a lack of experience.

    “We saw (Luell) as a person who was going to be doing this for a long time,” Nieskes said. “He was capable of handling the difficult, complex cases, would help us train and mentor the newer lawyers.”

    Luell and two retiring attorneys left within weeks of each other, Nieskes said.

    “In an instant we lost 60 years experience and hired people within a year of getting out of law school,” he said.

    At some point, Nieskes said, the lawyers with 15 or 20 years of experience will leave, and with no one in the middle range of experience, his office will be staffed by people with five years or less experience.

    “We have violent crime, we have complex drug cases, we have difficult sexual assaults,” Nieskes said. “You don’t walk out of law school knowing how to do those cases. It takes time and experience before you’re ready to do those matters. Community justice is going to suffer in the long term.”
    What is Perseverance?
    -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
    -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
    -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


    BOP - BPA - ICE

  • #2
    We had the exact same problem when I was working in state Corrections. I had been there for over five years and had promoted. I made less than the brand new guys working the night shift (shift differential pay), which was $0.60/hour, AND I had promoted. It was a bunch of crap. I don't blame this guy for getting out of the situation he was in. His former office, however, needs to make some sort of headway or they will be in extreme dire straits. Good post.
    "To know that you know what you know and that you do not know what you do not know; that is true knowledge." - Unknown

    Comment


    • #3
      I just recently found out that there are no pay increases for the first two promotions in my department. Where is the incentive to test?
      I am a Native American of non-Indian decent.

      Cleaning the pool, one gene at a time.

      I'm on a 30 day diet. So far I've lost 15 days!

      Comment


      • #4
        One could argue that the incentive is in the personal satisfaction of knowing what you've accomplished. The other foreseeable argument is that you'll eventually hit a promotion that includes a pay increase. Outside of that, your guess is as good as mine. lol
        "To know that you know what you know and that you do not know what you do not know; that is true knowledge." - Unknown

        Comment


        • #5
          When I was a kid growing up, we always thought being a lawyer was a great high paying job. Not to say that isn't true in some cases, but a lot of lawyers are not upper middle class.
          What is Perseverance?
          -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
          -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
          -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


          BOP - BPA - ICE

          Comment


          • #6
            I have been a prosecutor for almost two years and make 54K. I teach at night for a little extra something but that's about it. We are statutorily barred from doing any other legal work, even real estate closings for family members.

            I am fortunate in that my wife has a decent job and I don't have much debt besides my law school loans. I am told that there is something called the prosecutors student loan forgiveness act but I have yet to look into it because my loans don't come out of deferment until August.

            I'm like the first guy in this story in that I have no desire to do anything else as an attoreny and I don't care how much money I can make representing someone who had hot coffee spilled on her. I am just not interested.

            As for being a cop, I'd have to move because the cutoff here is 35 and I am 42. An option for me would be Army JAG but I'd need an age waiver. I am sure that with my prior service time and all the allowances I'd make more money than I do now.

            But again, this is a great job. We joined the CWA but do not have a contract yet. The one NJ office that does, Mercer County, are in pretty decent shape. Their prosecutors are at like 70K after five years.

            We'll see what happens here.


            "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Ex Army MP View Post
              I have been a prosecutor for almost two years and make 54K. I teach at night for a little extra something but that's about it. We are statutorily barred from doing any other legal work, even real estate closings for family members.

              I am fortunate in that my wife has a decent job and I don't have much debt besides my law school loans. I am told that there is something called the prosecutors student loan forgiveness act but I have yet to look into it because my loans don't come out of deferment until August.

              I'm like the first guy in this story in that I have no desire to do anything else as an attoreny and I don't care how much money I can make representing someone who had hot coffee spilled on her. I am just not interested.

              As for being a cop, I'd have to move because the cutoff here is 35 and I am 42. An option for me would be Army JAG but I'd need an age waiver. I am sure that with my prior service time and all the allowances I'd make more money than I do now.

              But again, this is a great job. We joined the CWA but do not have a contract yet. The one NJ office that does, Mercer County, are in pretty decent shape. Their prosecutors are at like 70K after five years.

              We'll see what happens here.
              I've read many of your posts, but never knew you were a prosecutor. You might not hear it a lot, but thanks for your service.

              Let me ask you something. Do you think that there will become an issue with lower quality candidates being placed in these positions throughout the country if the pay issue isn't handled?

              Like someone else here stated, many police officers make more than prosecutors, and not saying that those cops don't deserve it, just saying that prosecutors are just as important in the justice system, and they deserve to be fairly compensated. Since they had to spend 8+ years in college and obtain difficult licenses to do their jobs, you would think that their pay would reflect that.
              What is Perseverance?
              -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
              -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
              -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


              BOP - BPA - ICE

              Comment


              • #8
                Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Salary Schedule:

                Monthly Range Minimum Range Maximum

                DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY I: 4,622.18 6,062.45

                DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY II: 6,290.64 9,195.55

                DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY III: 8,029.45 11,117.91

                DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY IV: 8,993.45 13,146.82

                This is with yearly step raises. A new DDA starts at the bottom step of the DDA-I position, and after 5 years in the same position is making the max range. However, after 2 years they are eligible for promotion, so their pay advances quickly after that.
                sigpic
                Originally posted by Smurfette
                Lord have mercy. You're about as slick as the business side of duct tape.
                Originally posted by DAL
                You are without doubt a void surrounded by a sphincter muscle.

                Comment


                • #9
                  New ADAs in Nashville (TN) look at upper $30ks to start. I was gung-ho at becoming an ADA before I got into law enforcement work. When I observed how the justice system really worked, I sort of lost interest. Obviously the money is better when the ADAs have some time on and start working actual trials in trial court (newer ADAs work general sessions/hearings), but the pay just isn't what I expected for the "good guys" so to speak. Not that the defense attorneys are bad, even the crapbags need defending, but I just can't see myself defending people who are guilty. Does the system make mistakes? sure, there may be 1 innocent for every 100 that isn't, but that isn't enough for me to turn to the dark side. Plenty of money in divorce and real-estate law, but too boring for me.
                  I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TheKansan View Post
                    I've read many of your posts, but never knew you were a prosecutor. You might not hear it a lot, but thanks for your service.

                    Let me ask you something. Do you think that there will become an issue with lower quality candidates being placed in these positions throughout the country if the pay issue isn't handled?
                    Like someone else here stated, many police officers make more than prosecutors, and not saying that those cops don't deserve it, just saying that prosecutors are just as important in the justice system, and they deserve to be fairly compensated. Since they had to spend 8+ years in college and obtain difficult licenses to do their jobs, you would think that their pay would reflect that.
                    It's hard to speak for every state but the prosecutors in my office are mostly career prosecutors. There was turnover a few years before I got there but that's because the pay was like 35K only about 4 years ago and in a state where the cost of living is high. It's funny because I see some of our defense attorneys who were former prosecutors with our office and I get the feeling many wish they had stayed. Not that 50 K plus is anything great but these guys aren't making six figures and they work their balls off.

                    Our office is a great office in that everyone is highly qualified. Got a few attorneys with degrees from William and Mary and Penn who could work anywhere. Also, our supervisors are making about 100K so I think they're glad they stuck around, although most of them have been at it for over 10 years.

                    But like I said, the trade off is private practice with long hours.


                    "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Biggy Smallz
                      Defending all the ****bags, now that's where the money is at.
                      Um...

                      No. Actually, it's not.

                      Sure, when it's a decent family and junior does something dumb, you can land a nice chunk of change, but that only goes to paying for the bills on those multi month stretches when you are taking in little to nothing.

                      The normal cases are less that $1,500 each and that get's eaten up fast by rent, supplies, parking and coffee.

                      At least when you go down to the projects looking for someone you can do it with a bunch of friends with government weapons & ammo paid for by the taxpayers.

                      When I knock on doors in housing projects (not too often, but often enough) looking for my clients (for some reason, they disapear often on me...I think you guys took them...) I'm SOL and on my own.

                      OH, you say get an investigator to do that for me?

                      Heh. Right.

                      It all comes down to $$ and when you don't have any, you don't have an investigator.
                      Last edited by Mitchell_in_CT; 02-24-2009, 11:12 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mitchell_in_CT View Post
                        Um...

                        No. Actually, it's not.

                        Sure, when it's a decent family and junior does something dumb, you can land a nice chunk of change, but that only goes to paying for the bills on those multi month stretches when you are taking in little to nothing.

                        The normal cases are less that $1,500 each and that get's eaten up fast by rent, supplies, parking and coffee.

                        At least when you go down to the projects looking for someone you can do it with a bunch of friends with government weapons & ammo paid for by the taxpayers.

                        When I knock on doors in housing projects (not too often, but often enough) looking for my clients (for some reason, they disapear often on me...I think you guys took them...) I'm SOL and on my own.

                        OH, you say get an investigator to do that for me?

                        Heh. Right.

                        It all comes down to $$ and when you don't have any, you don't have an investigator.
                        Do they have pool attorneys in CT? We have them here and they are basically private attorneys paid by the public defender's office to take an overload or when there are conflicts, i.e. co-defendants testifying against one another where the PD's office cannot represent both.

                        Anyway, those guys seem to do pretty well. In fact, many of them, IMO, milk cases by filing motion after mothion rather than resolving a case simply for the $$$$$.


                        "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SgtScott31 View Post
                          New ADAs in Nashville (TN) look at upper $30ks to start. I was gung-ho at becoming an ADA before I got into law enforcement work. When I observed how the justice system really worked, I sort of lost interest. Obviously the money is better when the ADAs have some time on and start working actual trials in trial court (newer ADAs work general sessions/hearings), but the pay just isn't what I expected for the "good guys" so to speak. Not that the defense attorneys are bad, even the crapbags need defending, but I just can't see myself defending people who are guilty. Does the system make mistakes? sure, there may be 1 innocent for every 100 that isn't, but that isn't enough for me to turn to the dark side. Plenty of money in divorce and real-estate law, but too boring for me.
                          I used to have a bad impression of defense attorneys but I have to be honest and say that I genuinely like some public defenders. Others I could do without.

                          Anyway, the good ones don't look at it like their clients are innocent and that they need to get them off( no pun intended). For example, if Joe Defendant gets caught red handed by police in the act of doing a burglary and gives a statement to boot, the only issue should be what sort of plea he is willing to take. I don't want to try this case and neither does the defense attorney. So let's work out a reasonable sentence. A good defense attorney will tell his client what the State's case is and what the likelihood of conviction is. In other words " take the deal A-hole".

                          The bad ones want to drag everything out and file motion after motion. They do that even after it is made clear to the that if the State wins the motion, our case just got better and therefore the offer will go up. This doesn't seem to deter some who feel that their job is to stick it to the State. Don't get me wrong, if there are legitimate supression issues or confession issues, it's their job to fight for their clients. Otherwise, they owe it to them to get the best deal for them and actually convey it to them.


                          "Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it". George Constanza.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ex Army MP View Post
                            Do they have pool attorneys in CT? We have them here and they are basically private attorneys paid by the public defender's office to take an overload or when there are conflicts, i.e. co-defendants testifying against one another where the PD's office cannot represent both.

                            Anyway, those guys seem to do pretty well. In fact, many of them, IMO, milk cases by filing motion after mothion rather than resolving a case simply for the $$$$$.
                            Yes.

                            2 Kinds, Contract or Non-contract Special Public Defenders.

                            Contract gets paid $325~ flat for the case before trial, and then $40/hour at trial; Non-Contract is a $40/hour fee for the case from the start on misdemeanors.

                            Slightly more for felony, but not much.

                            I've put in for the list, but so far NADA. The state has an interest in keeping the work in house, and the public defenders I've seen in CT are not bottom of the barrel lawyers.

                            They are experienced, have investigators and are skilled.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The dark side...

                              Come to the dark side. We have cookies.

                              Seriously. Good ones with pecans with that expensive chocolate that crunches when you bite into it, then melts in your mouth as you chew.

                              It's worth your soul.

                              Really.


                              Yeah. The dark side. You see it that way, and quite often, so do I. I don't like criminal defense work all that much because of the people I deal with, but how else can one develop the skills to help those who truly need it when the state is, in fact, wrong?

                              Say you've got a case which you feel is a self defense matter cooking on the books right now. You really do believe the guy is justified...hell, you think he did the right thing...

                              But he's in jail right now.

                              Who do you want working on the file, a guy who does closings? A guy who does personal injury cases and doesn't do much criminal law?

                              Nope. You want someone who knows the criminal side to take this case.

                              The same lawyer who got a guy who ran from the cops, then bit a cop drawing blood while resisting arrest and found with 3 8-balls of crack & a handgun w/o a serial number 18 months, suspended after 6 months and 2years of probation because "He has a problem with substance abuse, and the police didn't properly identify themselves...he was scared..."

                              That's the guy you want when it's a cross racial shooting with a lot of brass on the floor and you have a community activist demanding your badge on his desk, your head on a pike and your "sack" turned into his tobbacco pouch.

                              Lawyers are like firearms.

                              You may not like them, but when you need one, you don't need a .25ACP, you want a cut down BAR...

                              And you don't get to be good without practice. It's the nature of the beast.

                              When your wife gets into a shooting because some guy decides he needs some rock and wants to pay for it with the money in her purse...after you call 911, who ya gonna call?

                              Be honest - It won't be your tax attorney.

                              Comment

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