A recent national study has found that pay for prosecutors and public defenders has barely budged since 2004. The situation is only a little better in Connecticut, where the public sector attorneys last got a raise in 2009.
But that's about to change. Next summer, Connecticut prosecutors and public defenders are slated to receive a 3 percent raise, adding about $1,850 annually to the current entry level salary of $61,900. Veterans with 10 years experience will see salaries increase from about $91,600 to about $94,000.
Jack Doyle, a prosecutor and president of the Connecticut Association of Prosecutors, the bargaining unit for the 250 prosecuting attorneys in the state, calls the raise overdue. He notes that other state workers have, overall, averaged 3.5 percent annual pay increases over the past decade.
"I can tell you prosecutors do believe they are underpaid and undercompensated, based on their jobs and what they do," Doyle said. "We don't get compensatory time or overtime or extra duty pay that police get. At the same time, prosecutors have been threatened, harassed and even attacked."
The issue of salaries for court personnel recently came to a head in Connecticut when Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers requested an 11 percent pay raise for judges next July, followed by 5.5 percent increases in each of the next three years. Her proposal, which was met with sharp questions by a newly formed Judicial Compensation Review Board, calls for Superior Court judges to go from earning $146,780 currently to $191,890 in 2017.
Rogers notes that Connecticut judges have not had a pay increase in five years and that their current salaries rank them 45th nationally, when adjusted for the cost of living. She says comparatively low salaries are driving experienced judges out of the court system and making it harder to attract top-notch lawyers to the bench.
The recent study, by the National Association for Law Placement, makes the same argument about low pay and the ability to attract and retain public sector lawyers. After all, the study notes, the starting median salary at private firms with 50 or more lawyers is about $80,000. And some large firms continue to pay $160,000 to new associates, the NALP said.
New prosecutors and public defenders in Connecticut make nearly $12,000 more than the national median of $50,000, according to the NALP. After 10 years, Connecticut pay increases to $91,627, while the national average is $76,000. In Connecticut, someone with 20 years' experience caps out at $129,000; the NALP did not provide a comparable figure.
While Connecticut salaries are significantly higher than the national average in raw dollars, the NALP does not factor in the cost of living in each state, as the judges' rankings do.
LAW SCHOOL COSTS