McDonnell proposes budget amendment to achieve salary parity for assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys
The governor will propose $2.14 million that will support a flat increase of over $3,300 for all assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys in FY2014 with a goal to provide an additional equal amount the following fiscal year, bringing the total proposed increase to $6,600. Current starting salaries for assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys are over $45,300.
Once this proposal is fully phased in, starting salaries would equal nearly $52,000. The governor will also propose $675,616 in new state support to fill select vacant judgeships.
“I started my public service in Virginia as a prosecutor in the Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. I know how hard the men and women in these positions work to keep all of us safe. To recruit and retain experienced and talented prosecutors, we must ensure that we are competitive in how we compensate our assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys,” McDonnell said.
Michael R. Doucette, Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Lynchburg and president of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys said, “Gov. McDonnell has stated since the very beginning of his term that he is the ‘public safety governor.’ In making this budget proposal, the governor recognizes that, given the current starting salaries for new prosecutors, the Commonwealth has great difficulty in attracting or keeping the best and brightest young lawyers as assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys. This is just as much a public safety issue as tougher laws or cops on the street. Unless there are good prosecutors to advocate for justice in the courtroom, all the new criminal laws on the books will be for naught. We thank Gov. McDonnell and his staff for understanding and appreciating this connection.”
Lethia C. Hammond, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Botetourt County said, “As an assistant Commonwealth’s attorney who is not supplemented by my locality, I especially appreciate Governor McDonnell’s efforts to increase assistant prosecutors’ salaries. I went to law school in my forties with the specific goal of becoming a prosecutor. While I feel very fortunate to represent the interests of the Commonwealth and to stand up for victims, I am bringing home less than half of what I earned before I went to law school, gave up my income during the time I was studying, and incurred debt for tuition and other school-related expenses. I would very much like to continue prosecuting criminals and protecting the public until I retire, but the reality is that with a family and the burden of law school debt, I could not afford to remain in this position without a pay increase. The fact that Gov. McDonnell is addressing the need for assistant prosecutors to earn a livable wage in these tough economic times evidences his understanding of the tremendous workload and responsibilities shouldered by assistant Commonwealth’s attorneys.”
Harvey L. Bryant, Commonwealth’s attorney for the City of Virginia Beach said, “The governor’s budget initiative will have a much-needed positive affect for public safety now and in Virginia’s future. Our law enforcement officers and communities deserve experienced, committed attorneys presenting the Commonwealth’s evidence in court. Raising starting salaries raises the bar of professionalism and commitment in our prosecution ranks. The heavy burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt should not include a financial burden for young prosecutors. Committed, professional prosecutors are the bane of the guilty and a boon for the innocent. The battles against crime are won or lost in our courtrooms. Gov. McDonnell has put his finger on how to improve the level of talent and experience of our younger prosecutors.”
William Davenport, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Chesterfield County and co-chairman of the VACA Compensation Committee said, “To have a great Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, you must have the financial ability to attract, develop and keep great attorneys. Assistant Commonwealth attorneys are the backbone of effective criminal justice. Having the ability to attract, develop and keep quality talent insures the public safety of our citizens. Gov. McDonnell’s background as a former assistant Commonwealth Attorney, chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee and attorney general gives him unique insight concerning public safety. There is a whole lot of difference between, ‘I feel your pain’ and actually having felt our pain. Your office is only as good and effective as the people you are able to attract, develop and keep.”