Last month, in an escalation of a war of words that had been
waged mostly behind the scenes, the state's 11 district attorneys
held a press conference protesting the $72-million discrepancy
between the budgets of the prosecutors and the state's public
defenders, represented by the Committee for Public Counsel Services
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association (MDAA) declared
in a press release that "the state's budget should reflect public
safety priorities" and advocated for a solution that reallocates
existing funds based on caseloads.
The district attorneys argued that in fiscal 2010, they handled
approximately 300,000 cases on a total budget of $92 million, while
CPCS handled approximately 200,000 cases and received $168 million
The comparison is "apples to oranges," according to Anthony J.
Benedetti, chief counsel for CPCS. The DAs are being
"disingenuous," he said, because the budget for prosecutors does
not include many of the line items that are included in CPCS'
"They don't take into consideration all of the different resources
the prosecutors have at their disposal," he said, including the
state's medical examiner, the state crime lab and resources
provided in partnership with the Office of the Attorney General and
CPCS' budget "includes many line items that do not appear in the
prosecutors' budget, that are provided by other sources of
funding," he said. "Interpreters, expert witnesses, things like
that, we pay for out of our budget."
For example, nearly $1.4 billion was spent on local police forces
last year. If 30 percent of a local police force's budget is
allocated to the prosecution of cases, that's $420 million that the
district attorneys have failed to acknowledge, Benedetti
The district attorneys also enjoy free municipal office space,
receive far more in federal grants and benefit from the profits of
drug forfeitures, he said.
Martin W. Healy, chief operating officer and chief legal counsel
of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the MBA is sympathetic
to the district attorneys' plight, but that the solution is to
increase their budget, not reduce CPCS'.
"The criticism of CPCS is misplaced," the MBA said in a statement.
"The district attorneys should not attack defense counsel because
of a lack of funding for prosecutors."
The MBA has a long-standing history of urging for more funding for
both prosecutors and defense attorneys. A blue ribbon commission
formed in 1994, the MBA's Callahan Commission, found that both
prosecutors and defense attorneys are woefully underfunded.
Bar advocates are paid a low hourly wage that must account for all
of their own expenses, while the district attorneys have separate
line items to cover the costs of their offices, experts and other
expenses, Healy said, a sentiment echoed by Benedetti.
"We pay a flat rate of $50 per hour to private attorneys,"
Benedetti said. "That does not include pensions, health insurance,
the cost of malpractice insurance or any of the other ancillary
benefits of being a state employee. The last time we had a major
wage increase was in 2005 -- and the prosecutors voted in favor of
Benedetti said CPCS has reached out to the district attorneys "for
years, trying to work together for higher salaries for both staffs,
and we still want to work with them on that particular piece," but
that the organization will "continue to get the message out to
policy and lawmakers that the DAs are being disingenuous when they
suggest this is an apples-to-apples comparison."
"We support an increase in the DA's budget, but not at the expense
of providing representation to the indigent," he said.
The MDAA did not return calls seeking comment by press time.