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Public defenders to fight Stroger's 4-day week
Lawyers say pay would be cut 25% under plan

Friday, February 02, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ERIC HERMAN Staff Reporter

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger wants public defenders to work just four days a week -- and sometimes only three.
Stroger announced the cost-saving measure Thursday in a letter from special assistant Jonathan Rothstein to the union that represents assistant public defenders.
The letter says starting March 5, no assistant public defender will work more than four days a week.
Ten weeks out of the year, the lawyers will work three days a week.
Contract in place
But the public defenders have a contract in place until November 2008, and the proposal violates it, the lawyers say -- partly because it would cut their pay 25 percent.
"We will take every legal action that we possibly can to make sure that a violation of our contract does not take place," said assistant public defender Bob Galhotra, vice president of AFSCME local 3315.
The union will ask for an injunction from the Illinois Labor Relations Board, he said.
Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said the letter's terms were "not irrevocable" and "can be rescinded."
The Cook County Public Defender's office represents poor defendants who cannot afford a lawyer, something the county is legally required to do.
The office handles 400,000 cases a year and now has 550 lawyers.
Part time won't work: union
With Stroger demanding 17 percent budget cuts across the board, in December Public Defender Ed Burnette submitted a budget that called for about 50 lawyers to be laid off.
Having public defenders work part time is not realistic, Galhotra added.
"When you're in court and you're doing a trial, you can't say, 'Sorry judge, I only work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.' "


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