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Low-paid prosecutors, public defenders leave jobs or take side gigs to make ends meet


Alex Lopez’s story is a familiar one in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office: He joined in 2017, earning about $40,000, working his way up to prosecuting robbers and drug traffickers. But when his wife, a teacher, became pregnant, he knew he had to leave — he was earning $60,000 in a city where “I couldn’t sustain a family and eventually be able to buy a house anywhere we’d want to live,” Lopez said. So in July 2021, Lopez left the office to start his own law firm. Within a few months, he’d already earned more than his previous salary from just a couple of cases.

Lopez is among some 80 Miami-Dade prosecutors who have left the office in the past year, a trend that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle attributes to “shamefully low salaries” that are compounded by a rising cost of living.

“Every single one of your public defender’s offices and state attorney’s offices is at a critical constitutional crisis point,” Rundle told a Senate panel last week. “If your state attorney’s offices cannot recruit and retain qualified, experienced lawyers to handle serious cases and assist the police in this process, victims will suffer.”

This story was written by Ana Ceballos and David Ovalle for the Miami Herald. 

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