The MBA's Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation hears from more than 30 criminal law practitioners and public officials during a three-hour public hearing on in March 2014. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and court chiefs testified about how low salaries have negatively impacted attorney retention, public safety and access to justice.
The Massachusetts Bar Association supports House Bill 1246,
which would provide an increase in the hourly rate for
court-appointed private attorneys, also known as bar advocates, who
represent the indigent in criminal cases when assigned by the court
and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Bar advocates have
not received a rate increase in the last 10 years.
"The Massachusetts Bar Association has been in the forefront of
advocating for a living wage for criminal justice attorneys. Now is
the time for the Legislature to act on this long overdue, pressing
issue by passing the pay increase. The wheels of justice depend on
fairness for all, including fair compensation for the attorneys
assigned to defend the indigent." said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and
Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. "Massachusetts citizens
deserve a justice system based on equity and not a bifurcated
system consisting of one for well-heeled clients and another for
the working poor. Every citizen deserves a fair opportunity to a
quality defense if accused of a crime."
Assigned private counsel do not receive regular cost of living
increases. House Bill 1246 would provide a more appropriate hourly
rate for criminal justice attorneys by increasing compensation to
$75 per hour for District Court cases, children-in-need-of-services
cases, children and family law cases, care and protection cases,
sex offender registry cases, and mental health cases; $100 per hour
for Superior Court cases; and $140 per hour for homicide cases.
The MBA's 2014 Blue Ribbon Commission Report, Doing Right by Those Who Labor for Justice,
concluded that "present salaries paid to attorneys working in our
criminal justice system are so inadequate that they cannot meet the
financial obligations attendant to everyday, normal living." The
MBA continues to supports fair and equitable compensation for those
attorneys responsible for making our criminal justice system work
and who provide access to justice to Massachusetts citizens when
they need it most.