Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, June 13, 2011


Page 6


On the Campaign Trail

Six Candidates for Post of Los Angeles County District Attorney Discuss Limiting Terms, Death Penalty, Role Models


The race for the post of Los Angeles County district attorney is off to an unusually early start this year—but it’s the first such election since 1964 in which the incumbent is not a candidate.

Six candidates are in the fray, with Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich apparently readying to jump in.

Eight questions were submitted to the present candidates. Responses were published Thursday and Friday to four of the queries, and responses to one additional one will appear tomorrow.

The period for filing nominating papers is from Feb. 13 to March 9, and the primary election will be held on June 5.



Chief Deputy District Attorney

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


Steve Cooley, John Van de Kamp

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from deputy DAs?



Are you personally supportive of, or opposed to, the death penalty?


I am personally not opposed to the death penalty but believe that it should be reserved for the most violent dangerous criminals who commit heinous murders.



Deputy District Attorney

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


We live in unique and ever-changing times where the office of the District Attorney must adapt its job description and role to fit those changes. There is no one DA that I would like to emulate. Rather, I would use the policies and strategies of past DAs that have been effective and incorporate new ones where I feel the office has had shortcomings. But if you want some names, I admire the work our current DA, Steve Cooley, has done on the “Three Strikes” law and I like the work our current Attorney General, Kamala Harris, did in bringing about innovative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders while she served as District Attorney of San Francisco.

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from deputy DAs?


I will accept campaign contributions from Deputy DA’s. Those DA’s that support me do so because they know the type of prosecutor, supervisor and District Attorney I would be.  What better compliment for a job well done, then to be supported by your peers?  However, I will not accept contributions from any current Deputy DA where doing so will create a conflict of interest. I will accept only those contributions that are ethical and legal.

Are you personally supportive of, or opposed to, the death penalty?


While I am personally for the death penalty, I feel that the way it is being implemented in California is costly and inefficient.  In the last 35 years California has executed 13 people. We currently have 648 inmates sitting on death row, while the taxpayers of this state shoulder the costs of endless appeals. I will work with the relevant stakeholders, in particular several victims rights advocacy groups, to create a more effective alternative to the current system. In a time of limited budgets, we owe it to the taxpayers of this county and state to account for the millions of dollars that are going into broken sentencing scheme.  Nonetheless, as District Attorney, my obligation would be to enforce the rule of law and the will of my constituency. My personal beliefs cannot come into conflict with my duties as DA.



Deputy District Attorney

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


I would seek to emulate two past District Attorneys. First, I would emulate Former Attorney General and District Attorney John Van Kamp’s commitment to fairness, justice and diversity. Additionally, like John Van De Kamp, I would have individuals of opposing views on my management team. Secondly, I would emulate Gil Garcetti’s commitment to juvenile reform, and environmental crimes. I have been endorsed by Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti and was a member of his leadership team. He knows my qualifications to serve as District Attorney. I have been an attorney in the office for 25 years under four District Attorneys. I will draw from the best examples of each of them and add my own leadership style to shape my stewardship in the office.

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from Deputy DA’s?


Yes, I will. They are the people who know the candidates best. Deputy District Attorneys are in the best position to assess our ability to lead our office through much needed reforms.

Are you personally supportive of, or opposed to, the death penalty?


The death penalty is the law in the State of California. As the District Attorney I will uphold the law. However, having prosecuted six death penalty cases, I would like to be a part of a committee along with the Governor and Attorney General that would address the need to reform a system that is extremely costly to the State and where death penalty inmates are dying of cancer, heart attacks, and old age. Clearly, there is a need to make reforms to a system where the appellate process takes over twenty years.



Deputy District Attorney

Are you personally supportive of, or opposed to, the death penalty?


I do not have a personal objection to the death penalty. I have a personal objection to the manner in which the death penalty is administered in California. We must administer it in a fair, ethical and objective manner. We must also decide if we are going to carry it out in California. The process is broken and all those involved in the judicial system must come together to decide its fate.

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


I would not seek to emulate any particular elected District Attorney. I have had the good fortune to serve three elected leaders of the largest local prosecutorial agency in the nation. Each leader was committed to administering justice in a fair and ethical manner. I pledge to emulate that policy and continue to make the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office the best in the nation.

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from deputy DAs?


I will accept contributions from my fellow deputy district attorneys because I am not in a management position in the office and do not have the authority to make personnel decisions. I will not solicit contributions from my colleagues because I do not believe that the candidates should put that kind of pressure on our fellow deputies.



Deputy District Attorney

Are you personally supportive of, or oppose to the death penalty?


I believe that the death penalty is morally right in only the most egregious cases, and when no doubt of the defendant’s identity exists. I am greatly concerned about its cost and will review methods of making it more equitable.

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


I would emulate in different respects each of the District Attorneys I have served under in my 25 years in the office, as well as one I had the privilege of knowing when I was a vice president of the California State Bar, and he was its president. I would seek to emulate John Van de Kamp’s diplomatic, even handed and inclusive style. John is open to all ideas, dedicated to public safety and recognizes the importance of having diverse views in the room in order to get the right and just result. He demonstrated this in his recent chairmanship Chairman of the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice.


Mr. Reiner

I would emulate Ira Reiner’s respect for the judgment and professionalism of his prosecutors, and give far greater authority to calendar deputies to make case settlement decisions in their courts. I would delegate significant discretion to DDAs in court with “hands on knowledge” to make the decisions without the dozens of policies requiring upper management approval.  We had continuity through clear basic guidelines. We knew when to consult colleagues on difficult issues, and we were better prosecutors when expected to and empowered to always simple do what was right. I will establish similar guidelines, and return to a Reiner type model.


Mr. Garcetti:

I would emulate Gil Garcetti’s respect for the career path and professionalism of his prosecutors as reflected in his heavily seniority based approach to promotions. I will seek to instill a sense of economic predictability  formalize this in an MOU with the union by establishing a heavily seniority based system  (80% seniority/ 20% discretionary) for promotions, and replacement of the disruptive current “bar exam” style promotional exam method, with a yearly straightforward pass/fail proficiency exams that can be taken until passed. Mr. Garcetti seemed to personally know every DDA in the office, an enviable effort also worthy of emulation.


Mr. Cooley:

I would emulate his progressive approach to three strikes, and the presumption that the third strike should be serious or violent. I will expand upon it adding the presumption that if the charge was not “serious” enough for prison, it would presumptively be neither a strike nor a 5 year prior. Estes robberies, criminal threats, and non-traditional  “open garage door” type residential burglaries would have a similar non-strike presumption. Prosecutors would be required to factually review all prior files before veering from the guidelines, but expected to make decisions, consult with peers as needed, and document the file with their rationale. I will encourage my respected colleagues in the office to use the “discretion” Mike Reynolds wrote into the three strikes law; to use the powerful tool sparingly and wisely; and not simply because the code “technically” allows it, but because the totality of the record  demonstrates that a 25-life sentence is necessary to protect public safety.

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from Deputy DAs?


While arguments exist regarding the collateral dangers of possible favoritism that might result or appear to result from accepting the assistance of prosecutors, similar arguments exist regarding the involvement of the criminal defense bar. When I co-wrote early versions of Marsy’s Law: The Victims Bill of Rights which ultimately became Prop. 9 passed by voters in 2008, a ban on such solicitation from the criminal defense was considered in early versions. The provision limiting defense attorney involvement was removed from the final version. While the concerns of bias or favoritism are of some merit, the over-riding free speech and the need to avoid disenfranchisement of important stakeholders with valuable insights properly prevailed.

The importance of participation by both prosecutors, the defense bar and  other stakeholders in the justice system, in my view, prevails. Such participation is particularly important in these times by those that see significant criminal justice reform as necessary. As a result, I will inform my colleagues of my candidacy, and ask for their endorsement and support. While I will not discriminate against and refuse to accept donations from Deputy District Attorneys seeking to donate to my campaign, I will not actively solicit monetary support from Deputy District Attorneys. I will seek their support in non-monetary ways if they share my vision for the office.



Deputy District Attorney

What past (or present) DA would you seek to emulate?


The hallmark of an effective public official is having a voice of his or her own. As I have done in the myriad cases I have tried and the division I have managed, I will bring my own deeply held core values, including principled judgment, integrity and courage, to the office of the District Attorney. That said, I also believe that there are lessons to be learned from those who have come before us.

Steve Cooley has consistently set a high standard for ensuring that the District Attorney’s Office is not politicized. We are in the truth and justice business, plain and simple. Every decision that I make as the District Attorney will be singularly focused on enhancing public safety. Purely political decisions have no place in the DA’s office, and I will ensure it stays that way.

Moreover, it is incumbent on any leader, including the District Attorney, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of Los Angeles, even if those decisions are unpopular or come at some political or personal cost. John Van De Kamp, while District Attorney, established himself as a leader who stood behind his deputies even in the face of controversy. That laudable quality is one I have long admired, and it is a lesson I will take with me to the office.

Will you seek or accept campaign contributions from deputy DAs?


As a first time candidate, I am proud and honored to have broad support from my fellow deputy district attorneys. While I have not actively sought contributions from any deputy district attorneys, many have shown their support of my candidacy by making unsolicited contributions to my campaign. It is with great humility that I accept those contributions as a sign that my fellow deputies have faith that I am best suited to lead them and to lead this office.

Are you personally supportive of, or opposed to, the death penalty.


I am personally supportive of capital punishment, but I am mindful that it should be implemented only in rare circumstances in which it is determined, after thoughtful and measured consideration, that the nature of the crime and complexion of the criminal call for the ultimate punishment.

The people of California have been called upon time and again to decide whether the death penalty is appropriate. As long as California voters choose to have capital punishment as a penalty option, I will seek it in the appropriate circumstances.


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