Deputy PDs Asked to Report DDAs Deviating From Policies
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Above is the first page of a six page form which seeks information on prosecutors and judges who do not adhere to sentencing policies of District Attorney George Gascón. A responder fills in the Google docs form, then hits “SUBMIT.” The form is at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSczaDQ4yyv203Qj0PaN7M8V8fAUlgH7mzJ-S0E8wHMAqwYrkw/viewform?edit_requested=true.
Deputy public defenders are being asked to report any prosecutors who are not abiding by sentencing policies of the new district attorney, George Gascón, and any judges who are declining to allow enhancement allegations to be withdrawn or otherwise not honoring the approaches Gascón has laid out.
The request has been sent out by Deputy Public Defender Tiffiny Townend Blacknell, recruitment coordinator for her office. Neither she nor the Office of District Attorney would comment yesterday on whether she is acting in collaboration with Gascón’s staff.
However, one deputy public defender said in a tweet:
“Hi, In the middle of trying to relax on the day of rest, our office received an email link from Mr. Gascon’s transition team instructing us to report every DA who is disobeying the new policy directives...with case details. It is very sad that the process has become Gestapo-like.”
Defense Lawyer’s Posting
A criminal defense lawyer said in a posting:
“Tiffiny Blacknell invited input from defense attorneys. She said she is planning to meet with a transition committee in the DA’s office about what is happening.”
Gascón, who assumed office on Dec. 7, has announced policies of not seeking the death penalty or life imprisonment without possibility of parole, not asking for pretrial release on condition of putting up bail except in the case of felony sexual assault or violent felonies, and not moving for the trial of juveniles in adult criminal court. Facing the prospect of departmental discipline for deviating from the directives, many prosecutors are riled—as are judges who see the district attorney as intruding on their prerogatives.
Concern among judges is intensified by Blacknell’s suggestion that efforts be made to unseat judges who do not cooperate with the progressive district attorney.
Blacknell said in a tweet:
“Ever since George Gascon announced his policies I have heard story after story of judges refusing to strike strikes, refusing to accept plea bargains, and refusing to strike special allegations. Before George, these same judges were doing whatever the DA asked them to do!
“So the truth comes out. It’s just the mass human caging that they believe in. It’s not about bowing to the will of the DA, it’s about perpetuating this racist system.
“Now that we know who’s who, it’s time to take action. The people have been voting for measure after measure to reduce the jail prison population, they have voted for a progressive prosecutor who has promised to reduce mass human caging. The only thing standing in the way of the will of the people, is the bench.
“Next up, FLIP THE BENCH! We’re keeping a list and checking it twice. It’s time to run some truly progressive judicial candidates in 2022, let’s get it!”
She added, taking a shot at former District Attorney Jackie Lacey, to whom voters denied a third term in electing Gascón:
“We had draconian laws that fueled mass incarceration, we’re changing them. We had a prosecutor who fed Black and Brown bodies into the system, we got rid of her. Next up: FLIP THE BENCH!”
One informed source said:
“My understanding is that the PJ is looking into how to respond to this.”
Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile did not respond to a request for comment.
In another tweet, Blacknell queried:
“Question: Does prosecutorial immunity cover a Deputy DA who is refusing to follow his own office policy? Could a client [of the Public Defender’s Office] sue for damages for not being allowed to post bond due to a [deputy] DA who refuses to follow directives?”
The form seeks a “Summary of Case and Issue, including reference to special directive, DDAs, judge’s position, etc.” It asks for the email address, name, and office of the person responding, his or her role in the case with a check box for “Attorney, Court Watch, Family Member, Press, Other,” the defendant’s name, case number, deputy district attorney’s name, the identity of the judge, the department, whether there is a transcript, whether an appeal has been taken or a writ sought, the race or ethnicity of the defendant and gender identity, and any other information.
Former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley told the METNEWS:
“The thought of disciplining professional prosecutors who are following the law is astounding.
“Mr. Gascón and his quislings do not know what they are doing.”
He said Gascón’s policies “are wrong and in some cases illegal.”
One Los Angeles Superior Court judge, who handles criminal matters, said:
“This is crazy what is happening. I, for one, will be following the law which is what is expected of any bench officer, not to bend to the whim of any individual who has a personal agenda. I will follow my Canon of Ethics and look at each case independently and make rulings consistent with the law at issue.”
Another criminal court judge remarked:
“I look at each case individually and follow the law and interest of justice on an individual case basis.”
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company