Katherine Fernandez Rundle
No matter where you live in Florida, it is no secret that your State Attorney’s Office needs help – funding help. Florida’s 20 State Attorneys are plagued with severe shortages of prosecutors and support staff which is having a negative impact on our ability to keep our communities safe. In the last year alone, my office has had 80 prosecutors resign. Florida’s 20 Public Defenders are also experiencing the same difficulties hiring and retaining attorneys and support staff. Despite our different roles in Florida’s criminal justice system, we are both experiencing the same problem: our Assistant State Attorneys (ASAs) and Assistant Public Defenders (APDs) are leaving public service faster than they can be trained and replaced. Their unacceptably low salaries are creating serious staffing problems which will impact every crime victim, every witness, and every criminal defendant.
Each member of The Florida Bar knows that ASAs and APDs are the only voices speaking for crime victims, witnesses, and criminal defendants in our felony and misdemeanor courts. As State Attorney for Florida’s largest Judicial Circuit, I particularly recognize that a shrinking number of prosecutors means crime victims face lengthy delays before getting their day in court. These delays add to the emotional and psychological scarring crime victimization inevitably creates. Delays cause many victims to give up, triggering their cases to fall apart and forcing prosecutors to drop the charges. For those who have suffered at the hands of a perpetrator, justice delayed, delayed, and delayed again is truly justice denied. High turnover rates create situations where attorneys handle serious cases, including armed robberies, rapes, and attempted murders, long before they are ready to do so, leading to potentially worse outcomes for the prosecution, defense, and community.