Posted Jul 10, 2007 06:00 pm CDT
Criminal courts in the Chicago area are expected to operate in slow motion today, as up to two-thirds of the 520 prosecutors in Cook County’s felony courtrooms take the day off.
The prosecutorial “blue flu” is intended to send a message to county administrators about a claimed 12 percent discrepancy between the raises they are getting under a new, nonunion contract and what unionized public defenders are being paid, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Many among the total group of 835 lawyers working in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office also are expected to attend today’s meeting of the Cook County Board to protest their pay.
Prosecutors say they were promised pay parity in February, reports the Chicago Tribune, but the county is currently in a financial crisis and can’t afford further raises, according to Todd Stroger, president of the county board.
Meanwhile, the pay problem is prompting prosecutors to leave “in droves,” says a spokesman for Cook County State’s Attorney Richard Devine. Some 50 have departed his office during the past four months, which is more than double the usual rate of attrition, the Tribune reports. This isn’t just about the money, according to a letter Devine sent to the board: finding funds to pay public defenders but not prosecutors creates a morale problem, essentially telling those in his office that tax money “will be used to keep people out of prison but not to hold individuals accountable for violent crimes against victims.”