Pratt ‘trying to salvage what is left’ after judges name him interim chief public defender

Roger Sprinkle

Public defender Christopher Pratt, center, congratulates Roger Sprinkle, after the conclusion of the RISE graduation ceremony on Dec. 13, 2022. | MRN file photo by David Adam

QUINCY — The judges of the Eighth Judicial Circuit have named Christopher Pratt as Adams County’s chief public defender on an interim basis upon Todd Nelson’s departure from the office this week.

Pratt has been with the public defender’s office since 2016. He said his first task in the new role is “trying to salvage what is left.”

The office at one time had seven attorneys. It is currently down to three, and Pratt’s future in the office may depend on the March 19 Hancock County Republican primary, where he is a candidate for state’s attorney against the incumbent, Bobi James.

“I hate what has happened to this office,” Pratt said. “I take a lot of pride in the work we do as do the attorneys who are still here.”

Pratt accepted the interim role and said recruiting new attorneys was one of his top priorities. One of the ways to attract candidates is to increase the salaries in the office. Pratt met with the Adams County Board’s Finance Committee on Feb. 12 to develop an increased pay structure to alleviate the manpower shortage.

The new salary table for attorneys is:

  • 1-5 years of licensure: $75,000 – $81,000
  • 6-10 years of licensure: $82,500 – $88,500
  • 11-15 years of licensure: $90,000 – $96,000

The chief public defender’s salary was increased to $177,000. Raises for current staff attorneys will be given immediately based on their years of experience.

“These are more competitive wages, and hopefully this will lead to giving us the stability we need,” Pratt said.

Finance Committee Chairman Bret Austin supported the action as he introduced the new salary scale to the County Board at its Feb. 13 meeting. The board unanimously passed the measure.

“This has been a long time coming,” Austin said.  “I tried to push harder a couple years ago but ran into a ton of opposition for such large salary raises.”

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