District Attorney’s Report: Fighting against burnout

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I hope everyone has had an excellent start to the new school year. It is hard to believe that summer will end soon. The older I get, the faster each summer seems to pass. Our offices have had a brief respite from trying cases, as jury trials have not been scheduled for the past few weeks.


By DISTRICT ATTORNEY MARIE BRODER


As I’ve mentioned before, my office and our judges have been working diligently to address the backlog of cases created by the pandemic’s shut-down of jury trials in 2020 and 2021. The most effective way to clear this backlog is to hold as many jury trial weeks as possible.

The prospect of a trial often encourages prosecutors and defendants to decide whether a particular case is better resolved through a plea. There are simply some cases where a case cannot be resolved without a trial. The only way we can clear these cases is by holding trial.

Amidst the strenuous efforts we are making to resolve old cases and operate as efficiently as possible, I encourage my staff to make sure they take time for themselves and their families outside of work.

The reason for this approach is that the work my offices perform can quickly lead to “burnout.” Burnout can be defined in many ways, but I have heard it described as chronic workplace stress that is not successfully managed.

The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, a negative or cynical view of work, or a lack of productivity and effectiveness. Prosecutors and those that work with them are particularly prone to burnout for two reasons: long, stressful hours and uniquely difficult work.

Many of our victim advocates, investigators, and prosecutors work outside of the hours of 9:00 to 5:00. Counseling victims, finding witnesses, and preparing arguments and exhibits for trial cannot be done in an eight-hour day.

My phone, like many other prosecutors in my office, will often start ringing around 7 a.m., and it is not unusual for me to take calls until 10 p.m. at night or later, particularly if there has been a murder or injury to a child. Crime does not happen during normal business hours, and we must be ready to respond no matter what time of day it occurs.

Also, as you might imagine, when you are dealing with crimes involving assault, rape, or child molestation, the stories you hear, the images you see, and the people you encounter have a profound effect on you. It can be very difficult to leave certain aspects of the job at work.

I am very clear with my staff about the work that will be required and the challenges they will face. I also encourage them to give their all on behalf of victims, law enforcement, and pursuing justice. However, I understand that I will not be able to keep staff, or they will perform poorly, if they are burned out. 

So, for that reason, I encourage them to make sure they take sufficient time to get away from their job responsibilities to rejuvenate and refocus. I also pride my staff on their willingness to pick up the slack when someone is out of the office on vacation or sick leave. Working together, our offices can perform at the highest level with as little turnover as possible.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that I had the honor of attending the memorial service for Deputy Jamie Reynolds. Our office was grateful to have worked with him when he was assigned to Court Services. He was, by all accounts, an exceptional law enforcement officer and a well-loved member of our community. My heart pours out for his family and loved ones in this difficult time. We never know when God will call us home. Until next time, take care and hold those that you love close.

[Marie Broder has served as the Griffin Judicial Circuit district attorney since 2020. She resides in Griffin.]