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Public defender pay raise shakes up staffing in Minnesota county attorney offices

For the first time in decades, Minnesota's public defenders are now being paid as much as prosecutors and it's resulting in droves of county attorneys pivoting to public defense.

The Minnesota Legislature over the summer approved a dramatic pay increase for public defenders. Since then, two elected county attorneys have joined public defender offices and 21 assistant county attorneys followed suit, said Robert Small, director of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association. Recruitment and retention challenges because of pay and dwindling applicant pools, especially in greater Minnesota, predate the historic pay raise, but Small said those issues seem exacerbated.


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