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A training center for state and local prosecutors and public defenders could be coming to Utah — if the National District Attorneys Association gets its way. The group voted in November to push for a $50 million facility in Salt Lake City that would offer intensive training sessions for state and local prosecutors and public defenders — groups that have far less access to training than do their federal counterparts. “We’re not trying to compete with the Department of Justice, but if state and local prosecutors are handling 98 percent of the criminal prosecutions in this country while the DOJ is receiving $15 million to train their lawyers, we think this proposal is a realistic response,” said Scott Burns, the executive director of the association. The federal government opened in National Advocacy Center — a training facility in Columbia, S.C. — in 1998 with the intention that U.S. Attorneys and state and local prosecutors and public defenders would split access to its intensive courses covering topics including ethics, cross-examination and digital evidence. Since then, federal support for the training of U.S. Attorneys has grown to $15 million a year. Money to train state and local prosecutors, which comes in the less-reliable form of earmarks, has dwindled from $4.75 to $500,000. It now makes sense to cede the National Advocacy Center to federal prosecutors and establish a separate facility to train state and local prosecutors and public defenders, Burns said. “They really need that entire facility,” he said. The association is in talks with public defender groups to gauge their interest in the project. The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law is working with the association to support the project, as are local lawmakers including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Funding for the project remains a question mark. Burns said the association hopes that the Justice Department will support the center financially, but it is also examining the possibility of public and private partnerships. “We’re looking at every avenue there is to build the building,” he said. In addition to the $50 million needed to erect the structure, the association needs $10 million per year to train prosecutors and another $10 million for public defender training. That money would cover classes, travel and hotel stays for between 6,000 and 10,000 attorneys each year. “It’s really difficult for state and local prosecutors and public defenders to get good training,” Burn said. “This is an idea that should garner support from all corners.”

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