The lack of prosecutors harms a prosecutor’s office

ST. LOUIS – The police defunding debate may be giving way to “funding of prosecutors” in the St. Louis area and across the United States.

The shortage of prosecutors has gotten so bad that the district attorney in Dodge County, Wisconsin, northwest of Milwaukee, recently resigned because he was soon to be the sole attorney in the office.

“Attitude and retention are the most important issues for these offices,” said Susan Ryan of St. Louis.

Ryan co-founded the Vera Causa Group, a legal consulting firm, with Jennifer Joyce, a former St. Louis district attorney. Her clients include more than 100 prosecutor’s offices across the country.

“We have (an) office in Illinois where they haven’t received a single application for two open positions as a prosecutor in three months, not one,” Ryan said.

St. Louis County Attorney Wesley Bell said his attorney positions are essentially full, although he would like to be empowered to hire more attorneys just to keep up with the number of criminal cases.

“In terms of the staffing that we’re budgeted for, we’re on track in that regard,” Bell said. We absolutely can.”

Missouri lawmakers may soon appoint a team of prosecutors to deal with a backlog of an estimated 3,500 to 4,200 criminal cases awaiting action from the current St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office. The total number of lawyers at the firm was reportedly down by more than 30% at times, compared to more than 60 who worked there when it first won the election in 2016, compared to the number of positions currently filled.

Gardner’s office released the following statement:

“The District Attorney’s Office staffing level for trial attorneys is currently about 90%. The firm continues to be an attractive employer for both experienced and new lawyers and we receive applications on a daily basis. The biggest obstacle to hiring our office is the low pay. Our office will continue to employ innovative recruitment processes to attract the best possible attorneys to serve justice on behalf of the people of the city of St. Louis.”

The starting salary for attorneys in the St. Louis Attorney’s Office is $50,000. In St. Louis and St. Charles counties, it’s more than $61,000. St. Charles County is currently fully staffed with 25 attorneys, a spokesman said.

According to Ryan, while money is important, so is the work culture.

“There is no more meaningful work on earth than fighting for justice,” she said. “By making sure the right people are held accountable, we don’t put the wrong people behind bars, and we give crime victims the justice they deserve.”

Back in Wisconsin, the governor had to appoint an attorney from another county to cover Dodge County, going from six prosecutors to none. The lack of prosecutors harms a prosecutor’s office

Sarah Y. Kim

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