Trials & Litigation

After layoff of 22 lawyers, prosecutor's office stops covering some trials

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After last week’s layoff of 22 lawyers, a Detroit prosecutor says her office is stretched too thin to cover all traffic court and domestic violence cases.

So, starting Monday, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has failed to appear to pursue a number of cases. That has been a windfall for some defendants, as judges began dismissing cases for lack of prosecution, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Chase Majors saved $1,700 or so when two traffic-related tickets were dismissed Tuesday, his lawyer said. He had planned to plead guilty, but the government didn’t show up. “Better get in here before it’s too late,” he said as he left the 36th District Court in Detroit. It isn’t clear whether he was offering this advice to the government or fellow defendants.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told WWJ Newsradio 950 last week that she has had to made hard choices due to budgetary constraints.

“My prosecutors … are overworked, underpaid, have too much to do, volunteer on their own time because we were all concerned about this issue,” she said, explaining that they can only be stretched so far.

As an earlier Detroit Free Press article details, Worthy is suing the county executive, contending that that the $25.6 million budget proposed last year for 2012-13 is insufficient to allow her to fulfill her constitutional duties. In 2010, she was told she could expect a $34.1 million for the current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the failure to prosecute cases means that courts will collect less money, potentially putting the judicial branch in a cash crunch. The situation “is creating quite a ripple effect here,” said Chief Judge Kenneth King on Monday of the financially struggling 36th District Court

June West, a spokeswoman for the office of County Executive Robert Ficano, said Worthy is using “scare tactics as a cover for her deficit spending,” contending that the budget for the prosecutor’s office was approved months ago and “it’s her call as to how she wants to allocate those resources.

“She has been spending at a rate that she is going to exceed her commission-approved budget and has known that and has chosen to deal with it in this fashion,” West said of Worthy.

Related coverage: “Jones Day lawyer is Detroit’s new emergency financial manager” “Top judge cites Gideon case, says lack of Calif. court funding threatens loss of civil rights”

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