Criminal justice attorney salaries found to be inadequate

Thursday, May. 15, 2014
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The Massachusetts Bar Association Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation has released a report that finds the salaries of attorneys who work in the state's criminal justice system are inadequate and inequitable.

The report, "Doing Right by Those Who Labor for Justice: Fair and Equitable Compensation for Attorneys Serving the Commonwealth in its Criminal Courts  2014" is the first study conducted on this topic since the MBA's groundbreaking "Callahan Report" in 1994.

The commission found that the lowest paid person in a Massachusetts courtroom is a new assistant district attorney, which ranks less than the salary of the courtroom custodian. Massachusetts ranks last in the nation in public defenders salary and the salaries of entry-level assistant district attorneys and assistant attorneys general rank well below those in neighboring states such as New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The report includes suggestions on how to improve the challenges assistant district attorneys, public defenders and bar advocates face living in Massachusetts, where compensation rates have changed little in 20 years.

"In addition to being a burden in the lives of these attorneys, the inadequate salaries can also have a damaging impact on public safety," said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. "The turnover rate in these positions is alarmingly high and our criminal justice system ultimately suffers."