Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) says Oregon's public defenders deserve a pay raise.
The defense lawyers paid with public money to represent indigent clients make substantially less than the prosecutors sitting on the other side of the courtroom. In Multnomah County, the highest-paid staff attorney in the public defender's office makes just $2,888 more than the lowest-paid prosecutor.
"They're horrifically underpaid," says Barker, an ex-Portland cop. "We have to raise public defenders' pay. Not just as a matter of fairness, but because we have to have public defenders. People are entitled to lawyers."
The senior lawyers who head divisions and manage staff attorneys in both the Metropolitan Public Defender and Multnomah County District Attorney's Office make more—but the highest-paid senior prosecutor makes $89,921 more than the highest paid manager in the public defender's office.
Barker, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, says he'll introduce legislation in February to pay public defenders more. Here are the gaps he's trying to narrow.