law

High Turnover Rate Among Assistant District Attorneys

While the state’s average turnover rate has been declining since 2011, the rate for assistant district attorneys has increased. This trend was exacerbated by the mid-year cuts that the state faced in fiscal 2015. Some district attorneys trimmed retainer funds, which increased turnover and burdened the remaining assistant district attorneys. The lowest turnover rate was recorded in the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, at 5.8 percent. But there are plenty of reasons for the high turnover rate.

The high turnover rate affects victims

One of the problems with the criminal justice system is the high turnover rate among assistant district attorneys (ADAs). While the rate may seem small in terms of percentage, it can have far-reaching effects on both the victims and the criminal justice system. Increasingly inexperienced attorneys mean less experience and less discretion for prosecutors. High turnover rates can also affect organizational productivity. Staten Island’s DA, Michael McMahon, estimates that a high turnover rate can lead to inconsistent outcomes for victims and defendants.

In Los Angeles, the turnover rate has increased since 2011. The DA’s office has lost 18 prosecutors since 2011, including long-time homicide chief Robert Romance. Those departing say losing seasoned prosecutors will not only hurt victims but also lead to longer trials and greater complications in court. Meanwhile, the number of attorneys in the district attorney’s office increased to 56 in 2018, a record high.

Changes in work conditions

ADAs carry a lot of the criminal justice load, so it’s important to consider how their work conditions affect their ability to retain their job. The University of Wisconsin professor emeritus Dennis Dresang conducted a study of current and former ADAs. He found that a substantial percentage of ADAs leave their job each year. In addition to job satisfaction, the study also revealed a correlation between the number of ADAs who remain in the profession and the number of ADAs who leave.

The findings show that DAs have become powerful workplace enforcers, with their investigations highlighting crimes committed by employers against workers. Increasingly, prosecutors have been charged with prosecuting crimes committed by employers, such as wage theft, labor trafficking, creation of conditions that cause predictable workplace fatalities, failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, misclassification of workers, witness intimidation, and workplace sexual assault.

Lack of trials

Many DA’s offices don’t offer many opportunities for new prosecutors to try cases, but that doesn’t mean that the work is unimportant. Attorneys in DA’s offices often write motions, photocopy documents, and schedule meetings with witnesses and police officers. The absence of trials in the job description may not be the only factor contributing to the low number of trials. It’s also possible that new prosecutors are just not accustomed to the courtroom setting and lack trial experience.

Student loan debt

With the onset of federal student loan forgiveness, a high turnover rate among assistant district attorneys may be in the offing. At least one reason for this might be the student loan debt that many of them have accumulated. The average student loan debt of assistant district attorneys is around $110,000. This means that these attorneys may not have enough money to meet their expenses and repay their loans. Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate these issues.

While being a prosecutor is one of the most prestigious jobs in America, the high cost of legal education and low pay can commit to serving the public financially unsustainable. Fortunately, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in 2007 to address this problem. It offers forgiveness of student loan debt for those who spend a minimum of 10 years in public service. While this is an important benefit, it is not the only reason why attorneys may be tempted to leave the profession.

Exorbitant costs of housing

The state of Wisconsin experienced a 75 percent turnover rate among its 330 assistant district attorneys. Underpaying these attorneys is one of the major contributing factors to the high turnover rate, which can have negative consequences on the criminal justice system. A recent study by the La Follette School of Public Affairs examined how the lack of funds for housing and benefits affects the ADAs’ job performance.

A recent study found that Massachusetts’s attrition rates for DAs are contributing to a low-quality legal workforce. As many as one-third of ADAs have only five years of experience, and the state’s high turnover rate is a serious problem. It results in a plethora of less experienced attorneys and, therefore, potentially less effective outcomes for both sides.

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