Chinks in the Armor

Florida prosecutors are demanding a bigger piece of the budget pie, claiming it's getting tougher and tougher to keep attorneys on the payroll.

Over the past three years, turnover in state attorneys offices statewide has hit 60 percent.

As an assistant state attorney in Tallahassee, Adam Ruiz argued his share of big cases including high profile murder and rape cases. The father of three says after working two jobs for the last two years, and staring down 130 grand in law school debt, he could no longer afford to stay on the public payroll.

Ruiz now works at a private law firm a few blocks away from the courthouse. He says not even a $10,000 raise could have convinced him to stay.

State attorney Willie Meggs, who heads up the state prosecutors association, is urging the legislature to fork over $19 million this year to restore money lost in budget cuts the past two years and to improve salaries for prosecutors who want to stay in the public sector beyond their first few years.

The prosecutors plea goes out this time not to a jury, but to lawmakers who will decide on salaries and more in the upcoming session.