The Prosecutor Vacancy Crisis

56 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2023

Date Written: December 15, 2023

Abstract

There is a prosecutor vacancy crisis in the United States. Prosecutors are quitting in droves and there are few applicants to replace them. In Houston and Los Angeles, more than 15% of prosecutor positions are open. In Detroit, the vacancy rate exceeds 20%. In Alameda, 25% of prosecutor positions are empty. And in Miami, a staggering 33% of prosecutor positions are unfilled. The situation is equally dire in many large and small counties across the nation.

Drawing on data and interviews from more than two-dozen district attorney’s offices, this article documents how low salaries, massive caseloads, the lack of remote work options, and crushing discovery burdens have caused an exodus from prosecutors’ offices. Worse yet, many young lawyers no longer perceive prosecutor jobs as admirable public service. Following the murder of George Floyd, law students are more likely to believe that public defenders, rather than prosecutors, are on the side of justice.

Prosecutor vacancies are dangerous to public safety and, counter-intuitively, to criminal defendants as well. Vacancies lead to junior prosecutors having massive caseloads that they cannot handle. In turn, busy prosecutors fail to dismiss weak cases, leaving innocent defendants to languish in jail. Vacancies also result in junior prosecutors being promoted to senior positions before they are ready. And vacancies cause Brady violations because busy offices fail to provide adequate training, and individual prosecutors lack the time review their casefiles and recognize Brady material.

Keywords: prosecutors, vacancy, caseloads, Brady, staffing, progressive prosecutor, overwork, burnout, hiring, staffing

Suggested Citation

Gershowitz, Adam M., The Prosecutor Vacancy Crisis (December 15, 2023). William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-480, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4666047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4666047

Adam M. Gershowitz (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

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