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SJR 40 Study: Background Report on County Attorney Services Prepared for the Law and Justice Interim Committee By Sheri Heffelfinger Office of Research.

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Presentation on theme: "SJR 40 Study: Background Report on County Attorney Services Prepared for the Law and Justice Interim Committee By Sheri Heffelfinger Office of Research."— Presentation transcript:

1 SJR 40 Study: Background Report on County Attorney Services Prepared for the Law and Justice Interim Committee By Sheri Heffelfinger Office of Research and Policy Analysis, LSD September 22, 2005

2 Beginning at the bottom line Policy Question: Policy Question:  Should Montana be considering a District Attorney model for prosecution services? Issues: Issues:  Salaries  Funding  Workload  Performance

3 Presentation Overview Part 1: Attorney General’s Office Part 1: Attorney General’s Office Part 2: County Government Part 2: County Government Part 3: County Attorneys Part 3: County Attorneys Part 4: Issue Analysis Part 4: Issue Analysis

4 Part 1 Attorney General’s Office

5 Attorney General Constitutional Officer Constitutional Officer Elected Statewide Elected Statewide Head of Department of Justice Head of Department of Justice Supervisor of County Attorneys Supervisor of County Attorneys

6 Duties of Attorney General (Section , MCA) Supervise county attorneys in “all matters” pertaining to their duties Supervise county attorneys in “all matters” pertaining to their duties Require regular reports on all “business” conducted by county attorneys Require regular reports on all “business” conducted by county attorneys “Order and direct” count attorneys in “all matters” pertaining to the duties of their offices “Order and direct” count attorneys in “all matters” pertaining to the duties of their offices

7 Legal Services Division, Department of Justice In Legal Services Division, two relevant bureaus In Legal Services Division, two relevant bureaus Appellate Services Bureau Appellate Services Bureau Prosecution Services Bureau Prosecution Services Bureau  Child Protection Unit

8 Appellate Services Bureau 10 attorneys, plus the chief (attorney) 10 attorneys, plus the chief (attorney) Handles nearly all criminal appeals and death penalty cases Handles nearly all criminal appeals and death penalty cases In FY 2005, 200 active cases in (state & federal) In FY 2005, 200 active cases in (state & federal)  More cases involve post-conviction relief (sentencing most vulnerable to error) Four active death penalty cases Four active death penalty cases

9 Prosecution Services Bureau (PSB) When requested, assists counties in prosecution When requested, assists counties in prosecution Handles “conflict” cases Handles “conflict” cases Investigates complaints against county attorneys Investigates complaints against county attorneys Coordinates training (civil as well as criminal) Coordinates training (civil as well as criminal)

10 More on PSB 5.5 attorneys (includes bureau chief) 5.5 attorneys (includes bureau chief)  3.5 general prosecution attorneys  2 specialized prosecution attorneys  workers’ comp & Medicaid 71 pending cases (snap shot from July ’05) 71 pending cases (snap shot from July ’05) Workload is mostly from small and medium-sized counties Workload is mostly from small and medium-sized counties  For part-time county attorneys, smaller staff

11 Child Protection Unit, PSB Approved by Legislature in 1999 Approved by Legislature in 1999 Prosecutes (on behalf of State) some of the child abuse and neglect cases Prosecutes (on behalf of State) some of the child abuse and neglect cases  Focus is resolving status of children in foster care 4 full-time state attorneys 4 full-time state attorneys

12 Part 1: Attorney General’s Office Review Attorney General’s duties to supervise & direct Attorney General’s duties to supervise & direct Appellate Services Bureau handles appeals Appellate Services Bureau handles appeals Prosecution Services Bureau assists when asked Prosecution Services Bureau assists when asked Child Protection Unit handles some child abuse and neglect, mostly foster care Child Protection Unit handles some child abuse and neglect, mostly foster care

13 Research Question #1 Should current state services for county attorneys be examined more closely? Should current state services for county attorneys be examined more closely?  If so, what specific questions about state services does the committee have?

14 Part 2 County Government

15 County Government Historically Origins: 9 th Century English Shires Origins: 9 th Century English Shires  Enforce the “kings laws” and collect the “kings taxes” Purposes: Purposes:  An arm of state government  Locally-elected government Political subdivision of state Political subdivision of state  Not a self-governing unit, like state is to federal government

16 Montana Constitution, 1972 Art. XI, Sec. 3 Legislature to provide alternative forms of local government - adopted by local vote Legislature to provide alternative forms of local government - adopted by local vote Elected county attorney must be an option Elected county attorney must be an option Board of County Commissioners may: Board of County Commissioners may:  Combine offices within a county  Share office with another county

17 Self-Government Montana Constitution, Art XI, Secs. 5 and 6 Montana Constitution, Art XI, Secs. 5 and 6  Self-government charters  Grants to counties any power not prohibited

18 County Government Choices Commission form in 52 Counties Commission form in 52 Counties  Fergus has self-government Charter Commission-Manager form in 1 County Commission-Manager form in 1 County  Petroleum City-County Consolidated form in 2 Counties City-County Consolidated form in 2 Counties  Butte-Silver Bow, Charter  Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Charter

19 Part 2: County Government Review Counties historically an “arm” of the state, local means of governing Counties historically an “arm” of the state, local means of governing County chooses own form of government County chooses own form of government Self-government powers authorized by charter Self-government powers authorized by charter County attorneys are elected officials in nearly all jurisdictions (more in Part 3) County attorneys are elected officials in nearly all jurisdictions (more in Part 3)

20 Part 3 County Attorneys

21 Elected or Appointed? Partisan or Non-partisan? Elected officials in 55 counties Elected officials in 55 counties  Musselshell and Golden Valley share (elected in both)  Meagher and Wheatland share (elected in both)  Petroleum appoints part-time attorney (lives outside county) 4 year terms, no term limits 4 year terms, no term limits Elected on non-partisan ballot in 10 jurisdictions Elected on non-partisan ballot in 10 jurisdictions

22 Statutory provisions Full-time County Attorney in: Full-time County Attorney in:  Counties with 30,000 or more people May be either FT or PT County Attorney in: May be either FT or PT County Attorney in:  Counties with less than 30,000 Counties may contract for services: Counties may contract for services:  With another County Attorney  With a private attorney

23 Current status Title 7, chapter 4, part 27 Full-time in 32 Counties Full-time in 32 Counties Part-time in 23 Counties Part-time in 23 Counties

24 Eligibility Sec , MCA U.S. Citizen U.S. Citizen Resident of state for 2 years Resident of state for 2 years FT with > 30,000 people, 5 years of experience FT with > 30,000 people, 5 years of experience FT with < 30,000 people, 3 years of experience FT with < 30,000 people, 3 years of experience Part-time, admitted to practice before taking office Part-time, admitted to practice before taking office

25 Duties Prosecutor Prosecutor  Justices’ Courts  District Courts Represent/defend state or county in any legal proceeding within county Represent/defend state or county in any legal proceeding within county Legal advisor to county and local districts Legal advisor to county and local districts

26 Salary: County Attorney Full-time Full-time  $50,000 base  Adjusted by county compensation board Part-time: Part-time:  FY 01 salary is base  Adjusted by county compensation board

27 Compensation Board Members All 3 County Commissioners All 3 County Commissioners County Attorney County Attorney 3 other county officials 3 other county officials  appointed by Commissioners Between 2 and 4 resident taxpayers Between 2 and 4 resident taxpayers

28 Factors Consideredby Board Population Population Assessed valuation Assessed valuation Motor vehicle registrations Motor vehicle registrations Building permits Building permits Other Other

29 State Share of Salary State pays 50% of county attorney salary State pays 50% of county attorney salary  Not:  benefits  salaries or benefits for deputies or assistants  office expenses County must provide fiscal info. to DOJ County must provide fiscal info. to DOJ  If not provided in time for budget planning, state pays last FY amount

30 Staffing: Deputies Limited (Sec , MCA) 1 st and 2 nd Class Counties (Tax. Val. > $30m) 1 st and 2 nd Class Counties (Tax. Val. > $30m)  1 chief deputy, 1 deputy All the rest All the rest  Same (1 chief deputy, 1 deputy), with county approval Special counsel may be employed Special counsel may be employed  Except in 1 st Class Counties (Tax. Val. > $50m)

31 Deputy Salaries Sec (3)(d), , MCA Set by County Commissioners Set by County Commissioners Longevity increases Longevity increases  $1,000 after 4th year  $1,500 after 5th year  $500 each year after, up to 11th year Salary plus longevity may not exceed County Attorney’s salary Salary plus longevity may not exceed County Attorney’s salary

32 Part 3: County Attorney Review Elected Officials: 4 counties share, 1 appoints Elected Officials: 4 counties share, 1 appoints 32 Full-Time and 23 Part-Time 32 Full-Time and 23 Part-Time Duties Duties  Prosecutor for state and county  Advisor to county and local districts Salaries Salaries  Set by county compensation board  Shared by state

33 Research Questions #2 – Should disparities be further studied? #2 – Should disparities be further studied? #3 – Should duties be sorted? #3 – Should duties be sorted? #4 – Should salaries be further examined? #4 – Should salaries be further examined? #5 – Should deputies be part of study? #5 – Should deputies be part of study?

34 Part 4 Issue Analysis

35 Bottom-line Question Should Montana consider a District Attorney system? Should Montana consider a District Attorney system?  District Attorney as state prosecutor in each judicial district  County Attorney as county prosecutor and provider of civil legal services

36 Issues previously noted Funding Funding Salaries Salaries Workload Workload Performance Performance

37 Funding Can issues be addressed by increasing state share and counties fixing salary equity issues? Can issues be addressed by increasing state share and counties fixing salary equity issues? Is systemic change required? Is systemic change required? What will the costs be, who will fund them and how? What will the costs be, who will fund them and how?

38 Salaries Does cost-sharing work? Why or why not? Does cost-sharing work? Why or why not? What about internal salary equity: county attorney with deputies and assistants? What about internal salary equity: county attorney with deputies and assistants? What about external equity – differences county to county? What about external equity – differences county to county?

39 Workload Should a line be drawn between: Should a line be drawn between:  Work for state vs. work for county and local districts?  Criminal vs. civil? What is state vs. county role and responsibility? What is state vs. county role and responsibility? Should line be drawn between Should line be drawn between  civil and criminal or  district and justices’ courts?

40 Performance Is AG’s duty to supervise county elected officials systemically problematic? Is AG’s duty to supervise county elected officials systemically problematic? Can issues be address through eligibility criteria and training? Can issues be address through eligibility criteria and training? Should performance standards be established more formally statewide? If so, who should set them, how? What about enforcement? Should performance standards be established more formally statewide? If so, who should set them, how? What about enforcement?

41 Staff White Paper What information should be covered in the staff white paper due in March ’06? What information should be covered in the staff white paper due in March ’06?


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