11.17.09

Leahy, Hatch, Delahunt, Gohmert Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation On Retirement Benefits For Assistant U.S. Attorneys

WASHINGTON – Leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives today introduced legislation to strengthen retirement benefits for Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a former chairman of the Committee, and in the House of Representatives by Congressman William Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

The Enhanced Restitution Enforcement and Equitable Treatment Act would correct a disparity in retirement benefits between Assistant U.S. Attorneys and other law enforcement officials.  Under the current system, Assistant U.S. Attorneys receive fewer retirement benefits than probation officers, corrections officers, and some corrections employees not serving in a law enforcement position.  The legislation will also help off-set the retirement benefits by bolstering the Department of Justice’s ability to recover money owed to the Federal Government as a result of fines or other judgments.

“Having served as a prosecutor for many years in Vermont, I know well the integral role prosecutors play in the administration of justice and keeping our communities safe,” said Leahy.  “By enhancing the retirement benefits for these prosecutors, we make service as an Assistant U.S Attorney a more attractive path for talented young lawyers who are considering public service.”

“This bill provides the Department of Justice with the essential tools to recoup millions of dollars owed the United States, and, most importantly, to recruit and retain the best and brightest to serve on the front lines of our nation’s criminal justice system,” said Delahunt. “I’m proud to join with my colleagues to give our nation’s career prosecutors the retirement benefits they deserve, and victims of crime the restitution they are owed, while imposing little or no cost on the Treasury.”

“Assistant U.S. Attorneys increasingly handle more complicated and more dangerous cases while they are paid less than counterparts without the caseload or danger,” said Gohmert.  “It only makes sense that we provide them with similar retirement benefits to their law enforcement personnel with whom they work. Otherwise, we can expect to continue training them for and losing them to the private sector.”

The bipartisan legislation introduced in both chambers will be referred to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.  The bill incorporates proposals from the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, and will strengthen our justice system at little or no cost to taxpayers.  There are approximately 5,500 Assistant U.S. Attorneys serving in 93 offices throughout the United States.

The full text of Leahy’s statement on the introduction of the Enhanced Restitution Enforcement and Equitable Treatment Act follows.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On the Introduction of the Enhanced Restitution Enforcement
And Equitable Treatment Act of 2009

November 17, 2009

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today I am pleased to join with Senator Hatch to introduce a bill that will take steps to enhance the retirement benefits granted to Assistant U.S. Attorneys who serve all Americans in a critical law enforcement role.  Representative Delahunt is introducing companion legislation in the House.  I would like to acknowledge the significant efforts made by the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys in developing this legislation.  

There are approximately 5,500 Assistant U.S. Attorneys in 93 offices throughout the United States, all of whom are serving on the front lines to uphold the rule of law. Having served as a prosecutor for many years in Vermont, I know well the integral role prosecutors play in the administration of justice and keeping our communities safe. Federal prosecutors are a crucial component of our justice system, and this legislation recognizes the important contributions these men and women make in the enforcement of our Federal laws.   

Probation officers, deputy marshals, corrections officers, and even corrections employees not serving in a law enforcement role receive benefits greater than those received by Assistant U.S. Attorneys.  This is a disparity that should be remedied.  By making the appropriate adjustments provided in this legislation, Congress would also help the Federal justice system retain experienced prosecutors. Of all the prosecutors who leave the government for the private sector, 60 to 70 percent do so with experience of between six and 15 years. With the Department of Justice's rapidly expanding role in combating terrorism, financial fraud, and other pressing national law enforcement challenges, we cannot afford to lose the experienced men and women who serve in this vital position.  And by enhancing the retirement benefits for these prosecutors, we make service as an Assistant U.S Attorney a more attractive path for talented young lawyers who are considering public service. 

This legislation also makes substantial efforts to defray the cost to the Federal Government of providing enhanced retirement benefits to Assistant U.S. Attorneys and to make our justice system operate more efficiently.  The bill includes important provisions that would assist the Department of Justice in recovering money owed to the Federal Government as a result of judgments and other fines. By bolstering the Department's ability to collect the funds it is rightfully owed, resources would be made more available to provide the parity in retirement benefits sought by Assistant U.S. Attorneys. The result of this innovative effort to fund these benefits in an alternative manner is that the Department of Justice will, through its duties as the Nation's law enforcement agency, be able to provide the benefits its employees deserve at little or no cost to the taxpayer.

With the introduction of this legislation, we signal that prosecutors in our society fulfill a critical and valuable role. By enacting it, Congress can send the message that the service of these prosecutors is an indispensable component of our Federal justice system. I hope all Senators will join us in supporting this legislation. 

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