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Virginia Beach public defender calls for pay parity

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) The public defender’s office in Virginia Beach is asking the city to contribute money to help boost its attorneys’ salaries.

Virginia Beach Public Defender Cal Bain told The Virginian-Pilot that low pay is leading to high turnover rates and inexperienced attorneys representing poor criminal defendants.

Bain has decided to ask the city council to consider providing up to $850,000 in its next budget, the Pilot reported.

Public defenders earn a starting salary of $53,000. Bain said that’s about $20,000 less than the lowest paid attorney in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

The state funds both offices and provided almost $2.9 million to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and $2.1 million to the public defender’s office.

The city also provides extra financial support to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office. Spokeswoman Macie Allen said that the prosecutor’s office has other duties that the public defender’s office does not. That work includes community outreach, providing legal training and handling expungements and asset forfeiture.

Nonetheless, Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle urged the City Council last month to approve the public defender’s request to ensure that the city has well-trained and experienced public defenders.

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