Monday, September 24, 2012
Jackie Lacey Calls for Granting Drivers’ Licenses to Illegal Aliens
Alan Jackson Points to Downside of Proposal; Bemoans ‘Spat’ Between Cooley and Ipsen
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Los Angeles County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey has called for allowing illegal aliens to obtain drivers’ licenses, while her opponent in the race for the office’s top spot, Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, has expressed skepticism as to whether such a move would be consistent with public safety.
Their views were stated at their third and final post-primary debate. It was staged by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, a union which has had a contentious relationship with the administration of the current district attorney, Steve Cooley.
Both candidates made pitches for an endorsement by the union, and Jackson went so far as to decry Cooley’s discord with a former ADDA president, Steve Ipsen (who was recently fired as a deputy district attorney).
The event, which took place in Little Tokyo at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, was moderated by LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddus.
Jackson initially sidestepped Maddus’s question about granting California drivers licenses for those who are in the U.S. unlawfully. He said the District Attorney’s Office must “follow the law” and that it would not be “incumbent” on a district attorney “to weigh in and start determining what the law should be or could be” unless legislation related to concerns of the office.
During a debate the previous night before the Italian American Lawyers Association, Lacey similarly opted to stay out of a controversy on the basis of it not being relevant to the office. She declined to take a stance on whether Gov. Jerry Brown should sign legislation barring local law enforcement agencies from providing information to federal authorities on illegal aliens who are booked—saying that the District Attorney’s Office is not involved in making such reports.
Jackson did discuss the measure, and urged a veto.
In this instance, however, Lacey found the issue raised by Maddus germane to concerns of the office, declaring:
“I join a lot of law enforcement leaders like [Los Angeles Police] Chief [Charlie] Beck in supporting licenses for undocumented workers. Excuse me, I think that that is a safety issue and I also think that it’s the safest way to protect our citizens on the road.
“I think the district attorney does have a role in leading on this area. Citizens do not necessarily know what the law should be and I think it’s squarely within our duty, as the district attorney, to state our opinion on this—and my opinion is: I want everybody on the road to be licensed, to be tested, and to be safe.”
That having been said, Jackson was spurred to state his own views. He expressed agreement with Lacey that when a matter “burdens the community with regards to safety, then we should weigh in.”
He declared, with respect to licensing “undocumented individuals” as drivers:
“They tried it in New Mexico. They tried in Washington, D.C. They tried it in Utah.
“And in each situation where it’s been tried, it has basically failed. The governor of New Mexico is currently attempting to repeal the law that they have for licenses because it is a safety issue.”
He mentioned that “it has not been shown as a model to work anywhere” but added the word “yet” and made clear he did not oppose the proposal outright. Jackson remarked:
“If it could be tailored so it could work here, and not invite cartel activity which has been cited in New Mexico and in Washington, then so be it—that’s fine. But if it represents a clear and present danger to the safety of the community, then I would not support such a law.”
Elucidating on his remarks by telephone yesterday, Jackson said: “I did not mean to leave the door open on drivers’ licenses [for illegal aliens]. Right now, I’m convinced it’s not the right way to go for California.”
Disagreement With Cooley
Maddus asked each candidate to delineate his or her biggest disagreement with Cooley. Lacey said:
“I’m going to decline to give you specifics but I’m going to tell you about our 12-year history together. On the executive staff, I’m the one everybody comes to and says, ‘Can you go in there and tell him?’ ”
Lacey noted, “We have had disagreements,” but added:
“If you want a functional management team, you disagree in private, but when you go out there, you support the elected official. He is the elected official….”
“My job is to speak up when I see something wrong, but in the end, he makes the call.”
The chief deputy disclosed:
“I don’t allow people to work around me who don’t disagree with me—because if you’re in there bobbing your head like…one of those bobble-head dolls, you’re of no use to me. I require that anyone working with me, must be prepared to challenge me, must be prepared to say, ‘You know, I think you should do it differently.’ ”
Relationship With ADDA
Jackson declared that the biggest disagreement he had had with Cooley—which he said he has not discussed with the district attorney—“is the administration’s handling of the relationship with the ADDA, specifically with the relationship of some of the members of the ADDA board, specifically the former president of the ADDA.”
“I think that became a black eye to the Office of District Attorney. We are the largest prosecution agency in the country.
“We are a dignified agency, and we should be a dignified agency, and I think that this spat that occurred between Steve Ipsen and Steve Cooley ended up being sort of shouted from the mountain tops.”
Jackson asserted that it was “incumbent” upon Cooley “to represent the office in a way that is never an embarrassment.”
The prosecutor added:
“And Steve Ipsen: could he have done a better job? Of course he could have. It’s a two-way street.
“But if I were to have to note a specific disagreement, I would say: at some point, you have to be the bigger man. You have to be the bigger person.”
Lacey interjected: “Or the bigger woman,” drawing laughter. She clarified that she was not agreeing with what he was saying.
Jackson went on to say:
“I think what we have to do as leaders in this office, what I would do as a leader of this office, as the district attorney, is to make sure I acquit myself in a manner that is keeping with the dignity of the office of district attorney.”
He asserted that “we need to have the reason and the interpersonal skills to rise above petty disagreements that wind up costing in reputation and winding up costing us, more importantly, [loss of battles] in courtrooms.”
Not Personal Attack
Jackson clarified yesterday that his remarks were “not intended to be taken as a personal attack” on Cooley and that he would never assert that Cooley, personally, “has been an embarrassment or in any way undignified.” He explained that his purpose was to express regret over the “breakdown of the relationship” between the District Attorney’s Office and the ADDA “and the fact that it was so public.”
Cooley expressed this reaction yesterday:
“He (Jackson) does not know what we know. If he did he might have had a different view. That being said, he should not have ventured an opinion. Apparently he (Jackson) hasn’t kept up with MetNews articles nor the lawsuits brought by ADDA.”
As to whether Jackson’s comments amounted to an attack on him, Cooley said: “His words speak for themselves.”
At the debate, Lacey was allowed an additional minute for rebuttal. She reflected:
“I believe the administration did its best to stay out of court, but it just did not work out.”
In response to a question as to repairing the relationship with the ADDA, Lacey said:
“One of the things I would like to do is sit down and talk with you, once I get through with this race—and really listen. I have so much respect for the body of work that many of the board members have done.
“You have to remember: I was your colleague at one point, and I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve never forgotten the talents you have and what you bring to the table.”
She acknowledged: “There are good points that the ADDA has made.”
Jackson told those assembled:
“The administration, the current administration, has established a relationship—I think in no small part—with the ADDA that is broken and needs to be fixed. Yes, there have been administrators who have walked into meetings, but there’s also been administrators who have walked out of meetings and said ‘These negotiations are over, and we’re done, and there’s no more talking.’
“That has to change. That simply has to change.
“Isn’t it time for that change? Aren’t you ready for that change, as opposed to the establishment that exists now?”
He also commented:
“There’s massive federal litigation that’s going on dealing with an injunction, and we have to get rid of that.”
The MetNews yesterday e-mailed both candidates, seeking further comments on the feasibility of settling the federal litigation, being staged by Ipsen and past ADDA President Hyatt Seligman.
Lacey responded, in an e-mail:
“With respect to the Federal lawsuit, Mr. Jackson was mistaken about the nature of the injunction. By its own terms, the injunction dissolves when Mr. Cooley is no longer the District Attorney. Therefore, under either the Lacey or Jackson administration there will be no injunction and no pending claim by the ADDA.
“With respect to Mr. Seligman’s and Mr. Ipsen’s claims, the DA’s Office and County recognize that continued litigation results in the County incurring legal expenses and other fees to defend against claims, and therefore is always willing to consider reasonable settlement offers. That said Mr. Seligman’s and Mr. Ipsen’s claims lack merit, and therefore any settlement reached will need to take into consideration the strength of the DA’s Office’s case.”
Jackson said in a telephone interview that in light of the personalities of Seligman and Ipsen, settling the federal action would be “a challenging undertaking, so say the least.”
He declined to assess the feasibility of reaching an accord, explaining that “unless and until” he becomes district attorney, and can get a complete picture, “there’s no way of knowing” how practical that goal is.
His answer was similar as to a question in the e-mail to the candidates as to prospects of settlement should Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones grant a writ of mandate overturning a determination by the county’s Employee Relations Commission that the District Attorney’s Office engaged in union-busting conduct, including punitive reassignments of ADDA leaders. If Jones should find that the decision was infected by misconduct on the part of the ERCOM executive director and the hearing officer, a remand to the commission could be ordered.
Jackson said he “wouldn’t know” if differences could be resolved unless he were “in a position to assess the entire ERCOM litigation.”
“If Judge Jones vacates the decision because she determines that the DA’s Office did not get a fair hearing, then it will be the ADDA’s decision as to whether they want to proceed with the action in ERCOM.
“If the ADDA, nevertheless elects to proceed with a petition, the DA’s Office will defend against the petition.
“If Judge Jones reverses the ERCOM decision because it was not supported by substantial evidence or ERCOM exceeded its authority, then a writ of mandate will issue and the DA’s Office will have prevailed. There will be nothing further for the ERCOM to adjudicate except to comply with the writ of mandate.”
“Over the last two years, under my supervision management and the ADDA have met regularly and discussed transfers. Management provided a detailed description of the transfer process and the varying needs of the Office. The ADDA provided their concerns and ideas. All points were considered and a written policy was developed. The policy addresses office needs first but it also incorporates many suggestions and ideas from the ADDA. I would continue my efforts to work with the ADDA to discuss their needs and concerns to avoid further disputes.
“These DDA’s are real people, many of which I know personally and respect. I want the best for this Office.”
ADDA Board Decision
The ADDA Board of Directors has voted to partially subsidize legal bills of Ipsen, now a criminal defense lawyer. Lacey responded to a request for a comment by saying:
“I was not aware of the ADDA’s decision to subsidize Mr. Ipsen’s legal fees and I have no opinion as to the decision.”
“Not having been on that board, I don’t know why they decided as they did. As DA, I would take no position on it.”
He said that the general membership should be made aware of the action and be able to “weigh in” on the question of whether this is an appropriate use of their dues money.
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Berger, who runs LosAngelesDragnet.blogspot.com, yesterday posted a run-down on the various stances the candidates took at the debate, and tossed this in:
“Former District Attorney Robert Philibosian was in the audience, and with his characteristic brevity of words, he cut to the chase and made his point with two questions; ‘How many DDAs are there’’ and ‘How many were here tonight?’ The answers: 1,000+, and about 100.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company