Riverside, California 2022-06-23 07:30:08 –
New obstacles have arisen as Nueces County courts plan to return to the pre-pandemic pace of jury trials. It is the District Attorney’s Office, which is rapidly losing the most skilled prosecutors.
Felony Attorney General Angelica Hernandez told the Judges Tuesday that her office had lost 13 prosecutors.
To make matters worse, she said three more prosecutors could leave in the coming weeks.
“There aren’t enough prosecutors to put people in court,” Hernandez said at a monthly meeting of judges.
Former district judge Hernandez said the staff shortage was a result of the lack of experienced prosecutors throughout the state, making it the “best product.”
In addition, other counties in the region offer more competitive salaries, attracting many of the top prosecutors in the office. According to Hernandez, they will leave Nueces County to work in private law firms and other district attorneys.
Hernandez shared the example of a prosecutor who went to the position of a misdemeanor prosecutor in another county. His position boasted a salary of $ 35,000 higher than that of Nueces County.
The Commissioner Court approved a salary increase for employees of the District Attorney’s Office and other departments in September. However, Judge Barbara Canales of Nueces County said it may not have been sufficient to be competitive in the current market.
Hernandez told the Caller Times that there are currently no lawyers in the office. Lawyers are usually tasked with determining the appropriate proceedings to be filed against the defendant based on the facts presented by the arrest of law enforcement officers.
Many prosecutors have added work on behalf of the interview lawyer in addition to what they have already done. This is important in determining whether the case will move forward. Increase the workload and carry out the “risk of redeveloping that backlog”. Said.
The untreated portion partially contributes to the overcrowding of Nueces County Prisons. Sheriff JC Hooper said Tuesday that prisons remained at 100% capacity, except for prisoners in Victoria and Aransas counties to alleviate overcrowding.
According to Hooper, the county has spent more than $ 420,000 on prisoners’ residences outside the county. This month, the Commissioner’s Court resolved to use federal funding from the US Rescue Planning Act to pay its ongoing costs.
Court to lift COVID restrictions
Courts may soon be free from the burden of plastic barriers, social distance, and other preventative COVID-19 measures.
Hernandez’s comment was by Judge Sandra Watts, who said that most of the Board’s COVID-19-related restrictions on where to choose a court jury trial and an alternative schedule that would limit the number of trials that could be held at the same time would be removed. It was issued when the judge unanimously approved the motion. On the court floor.
However, the judge maintained an order allowing the judge to hold a virtual hearing on Zoom.
Mr Canales, who attends the Judges’ Meeting to act as a liaison between the judges and the Commissioner of Baseball, said it was time to run the courts again. However, she advised the judge to “turn attention to the wind.”
Watts said opening the court could reduce the unprocessed portion, saying the jury could wear a mask and take precautions as needed.
“State and country issues”
The prosecutor’s deficit is not unique to Nueces County.
Robert Kepple, Managing Director of the Texas District & County Attorneys Association, said the issue is widespread in many counties, large and small, in Texas.
“There are a lot of offices that have a lot of shortages,” he said.
At the low end, district attorneys coming to Nueces County will be paid more than $ 63,500 and will be gradually increased according to their level of experience.
Keple said he couldn’t specifically talk to Nueces County, but populous and suburban counties that offer salaries in the $ 60,000 range are struggling to attract and retain talent. ..
“Prosecution is a great job and there are many things to do, but at some point the salary needs to be better,” he said. “I know that our elected people are working hard to work with their committee members to find ways to raise their salaries.”
Some counties have chosen to raise their salaries in the face of staffing issues.This Week, San Antonio Express-News report Members of Bexar County voted to approve a 5% full wage increase for county employees, including the staff of a declining district attorney.
Possibility of lack of talent
The problem of staff shortages can flow into court and, in the worst case, affect the outcome of the case.
District judge David Stiss raised the issue on Tuesday, saying inexperienced prosecutors assigned to more complex cases, such as murders and crimes involving children, could have false consequences. did.
“It affects everyone,” Stith said. “It will be’innocent’-the person will return to the street.”
Hernandez agreed and later told the Caller Times that she was worried about a new lawyer hired in an office with few mentoring opportunities.
“We tried not to have a fire trial with the prosecutor. We are at that point,” Hernandez told the judge, “a brand new prosecutor who has never even attempted a misdemeanor.” He added that he would attempt murder and other high-ranking officials. For levels.
Retaining talented and professional prosecutors can be a challenge for small and medium-sized counties, Keple said.
“It takes years to train good prosecutors. You hate losing them because your salary isn’t enough,” he said.
Commissioner may consider raising salary
Hernandez said her office is working with Canales on a solution to address this issue, suggesting that salary increases can make a difference.
However, Canales said the Commissioner Court is in the process of planning a budget for next year. According to her, the widespread changes currently underway will only be retained until October 1st, unless they are continued with the full approval of the court.
Instead, Canales instructed the District Attorney’s Office to individually submit a salary increase proposal to the Commissioner Court in the meantime. The court has done this before.
Earlier this month, the Commissioner’s Court unanimously approved raising salary levels for candidates interested in joining the District Attorney’s Office as gang prosecutors. Earlier next year, Canales said this was the best process until broader changes were considered.
Hernandez said the situation was hopeless and the office was at stake.
“We will do our best as usual. We understand that you have to take everything on a case-by-case basis,” Hernandez told the judge. “But we could literally beat about 16 prosecutors in the next three weeks.”
Nueces County DA facing shortage of more than a dozen prosecutors Source link Nueces County DA facing shortage of more than a dozen prosecutors