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SAN JOSE — Three dozen Santa Clara prosecutors and public defenders could be laid off this summer. At the same time, the remaining 400 attorneys could receive as much as a 15.5 percent raise in August — the final bump in a two-year contract boosting county attorneys’ pay by more than 30 percent. Now that the district attorney, public defender and county counsel have submitted plans for cuts of 13.5 percent or more, rank-and-file attorneys are wondering about the future of their double-digit raises. And with good reason, county officials say. “I would hope the unions would recognize how inappropriate it would be to accept a large raise in a time when their colleagues and others in the county are in danger of losing their jobs and when public services may not be able to be given to people in the community,” said Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel. She said her budget plan doesn’t include layoffs, but she does plan to institute a billable-hour requirement of 1,900 hours. “It’s true I received a raise for last year. I will not accept an increase this year unless the economic situation turns around.” Under the submitted plans, DA George Kennedy would lay off eight of his 200 lawyers, plus four of 19 family support attorneys, and PD Jose Villareal would lay off 24 of his 120 lawyers. Union leaders say it’s too early to hand back hard-earned pay raises. But the choice between pay raises and layoffs could be divisive. Many newer attorneys, who are more likely to be laid off under the seniority system, are willing to forgo raises. But veterans are still smarting from a decade�long pay-raise drought. Perhaps more important, the pay raise would sweeten their eventual retirement benefits. “It’s fair to say that people are concerned, and it would be true to say morale has been affected,” said James Shore, president of the Government Attorneys Association and a deputy DA. “That tension between those close to retirement and those young-uns is a reality,” said County Counsel Attorneys Association President Denis O’Neal. “The only way to resolve that is to take a vote. Even the leaders can’t decide that. That’s up to the members.” But first, union leaders say, the county will have to make the first move and submit a proposal. “We are willing to work with the county on solutions as we are evaluating the different solutions,” said Shore. Office managers hope something can be worked out short of layoffs. One possibility is a cost-neutral agreement that “encourages attrition of deputies at high salaries versus layoffs of deputies at low salaries,” said DA George Kennedy. “That would give me more deputies within a given budget, and it would be more humane and otherwise in the public interest.” In a letter to the county Board of Supervisors, Kennedy characterized some of the proposed cuts as “unlawful,” and added that 13.5 percent cuts “could result in unnecessary litigation between me and the board. And, it would otherwise be fiscally bad for the county, bad public policy and ignore the lessons of history.”

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