Lawyer Pay

Courthouse custodians make more money than new prosecutors in this state


Public defenders and prosecutors in Massachusetts are so poorly paid that they are among the working poor, according to a study by the state bar association.

Assistant district attorneys in the state earn $37,500 a year and public defenders earn $40,000, according to the study (PDF) by the bar association’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Criminal Justice Attorney Compensation. Starting pay for these lawyers should be raised to $55,000, the report said.

“Sadly, the lowest-paid person in a Massachusetts courtroom is a newly minted assistant district attorney,” the report says. “Working up from the bottom, the next-lowest-paid employee in the courthouse is the custodian. And the third-lowest-paid person in the courtroom is the public defender.”

The state prides itself as a leader in many fields, including the law. “But in compensation of criminal justice lawyers, it ranks dead last,” the report says.

The Boston Globe covered the findings. Martin Healy, chief legal counsel for the bar association, told the newspaper that many public defenders and prosecutors work second jobs, often in the hospitality industry. “They are working as bartenders, as waiters, and waitresses,” he said. “They are not living an extravagant lifestyle.”

Updated on May 19 to fix a numerical typo.

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