State attorney, public defender need Florida Legislature’s support to keep you safe

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald

By Katherine Fernandez Rundle

Published April 20, 2023


As Miami-Dade state attorney, I am committed to keeping our community safe and protecting victims. My team and I work closely with 37 different police agencies and other partners to investigate and prosecute local crimes. Together, we have reduced the crime rate almost 70% during my tenure, but we still have work to do.

Our office is facing a staffing crisis that can undermine our ability to protect the community if not immediately addressed. We are down more than 100 prosecutors and 250 staff, trending to a 30% vacancy rate and being crushed by a backlog of COVID cases. The public defender’s office faces a similar crisis.

Our inability to hire and retain prosecutors and public defenders, and their needed support staff, is contributing to case delays. Victims and their families must deal with a constant rotation of lawyers on their cases and are forced to repeatedly relive the trauma they endured, often giving up and causing cases to be dropped.

Miami now is the most expensive housing market in the United States. Its median apartment rent is around $3,000 a month. Prosecutors in Florida start at $60,000, ranking 48th lowest in the nation. Support staffers start at around $31,000. These salaries make it extremely difficult for us to attract the number of qualified individuals we need to protect you and your families, particularly since many of them must overcome often crippling student loans.

We do not expect to compete with private law firms who often start young attorneys at $145,000; we simply are trying to secure salaries that allow our attorneys and staff to survive and serve our community without leaving for a more-affordable community.

To address the problem, I asked the Legislature to: provide an 8.3% cost-of-living increase for all staff to help offset inflation; increase prosecutor salaries by an additional $15,000; provide funding for a locality pay differential for Miami-Dade County.