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Scott County prosecutor's office severely understaffed

November 10th, 2012 10:29 pm by Wes Bunch

GATE CITY — The Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is understaffed despite seeing a drastic increase in its circuit court caseload over the first six months of 2012.


According to figures from the Virginia Compensation Board, the Scott office has half of the staff it should.


In fact, Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said his office is fourth on the state’s waiting list for additional positions. In 2009, the office was at 16 on the list.


“They say we are due, if the state will fund it, two prosecutors and two support staff,” McClung said. “So we’re down four positions, which is 97 percent of our office.”


McClung said his office currently funds one prosecutor’s position through revenues generated from fines. Unlike other constitutional offices, no local funding is provided to cover salaries in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.


McClung said the number of positions a prosecutor’s office has funded is based on figures the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission provides to the state’s compensation board.


According to those sentencing commission numbers — which are based on a three-year average of defendants and a three-year average of sentencing events — Scott County maintained an average of 324 for the period covering Fiscal Year 2009 to FY 2011.


McClung said the amount of work his office handles can also be measured by the Virginia Supreme Court’s caseload reporting system.


According to Supreme Court data, which is measured by the number of charges prosecuted, the Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office handled a total of 1,832 circuit court cases from January until June 2012. Of those cases, 1,571 were felonies.


McClung said his office only lost 121 felony and misdemeanor cases during that time span, representing a nearly 94 percent success rate for prosecutions.


“These numbers are extraordinary for us,” McClung said. “This tells me that we are winning a very high percentage of our cases.”


McClung said the more than 1,800 charges handled during that six-month span already outpaced the total number of charges his office prosecuted for all of last year.


For the entire 2011 calendar year, the office concluded 1,306 total cases, compared to a total of 1,256 cases concluded from January to December 2010.


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