A measure to equalize pay between staff of Virginia prosecutors and those working in public-defender’s offices died in a House of Delegates subcommittee.
The measure, patroned by Del. Alfsono Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), would have required localities that supplement the compensation of staff in its office of commonwealth’s attorney beyond state minimums to do the same for staff of a public defender’s office, if a locality has one.
Currently, state law leaves it up to localities to determine whose pay to supplement, if any. And that’s the way it’s likely to stay, as Lopez’s bill was killed by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns on a 5-4 vote.
According to the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, there are 28 public-defender offices operated either by a single jurisdiction or multiple jurisdictions. Of them, staff in 11 receive some form of pay supplement, although it does necessarily equate to the bump that those in the local office of commonwealth’s attorney receive.
Many jurisdictions across the commonwealth farm out legal-defense services for indigents to private attorneys. A measure patroned by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, to study implementing a statewide system of public-defender offices was held over until the 2023 session for consideration.