By David Brand
Public defenders from all five boroughs converged on City Hall Thursday to continue their push for pay parity with the city’s corporation counsel.
Unionized attorneys and service providers from the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys were joined by members of the 1199 SEIU and a handful of local lawmakers who urged Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to prioritize pay parity among public defenders, prosecutors and city lawyers in the next budget.
The council’s proposed budget included $15 million in funding to increase pay for public defenders. In June 2018, the city provided $15 million to district attorney’s offices to increase prosecutor pay.
The FY 2020 Preliminary Budget for Indigent Defense included $299.2 million, an $8.1 million increase from the 2019 budget. The city would cover $260 million of that total, while the state would pick up the remaining $39 million under that plan.
At an October hearing before the City Council’s Committee on the Justice System, Tina Luongo, the attorney-in-charge of Legal Aid’s Criminal Practice, highlighted specific salary disparities between Corporation Counsel attorneys and public defenders.
New York City Corporation Counsel attorneys with 10 years of experience earn an annual salary of roughly $108,000 while public defenders with 10 years of experience earn about $90,000, she said.
NYC Law Department spokesperson Nick Paolucci said “fair compensation” for public defenders “is a critical factor in recruiting and retaining effective lawyers.”
“Our system of justice works best when all parties in litigation are represented by competent counsel,” Paolucci told the Eagle last month.