The California District Attorneys Association announced Tuesday it will file a friend-of-the-court brief later this month supporting the lawsuit recently filed by the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón because of his radical new directives.
The Los Angeles County prosecutors asked the District Attorneys Association (CDAA) to weigh in on Gascón’s recent directives and announcement that he would be getting rid of all crime enhancements, ordering prosecutors not to attend parole hearings, and eliminating cash bail, despite California voters rejecting the elimination of cash bail in the November election.
In many respects, with these new directives, Gascón is telling Deputy District Attorneys to violate the law as well as their duty of professional responsibility.
New sentencing guidelines, issued recently by Gascón on his first day in office, force Los Angeles County prosecutors to read a statement in court that asks for the removal of certain sentencing enhancements, such as possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime, the CDAA explained in their press statement.
In an open ethics letter to the ADDA, the District Attorneys expressed “grave concern regarding some of the new Los Angeles County District Attorney’s policies, including one that compels prosecutors to read a blanket statement in court which, in some cases, violates the state’s constitutional protection of crime victims. New sentencing guidelines, issued by Gascón on his first day in office, force Los Angeles County prosecutors to read a statement in court that asks for the removal of certain sentencing enhancements, such as possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.”
The Globe recently reported on a criminal case in Los Angeles Superior Court where the ADA did just this: “Deputy DA Herring filed a Motion to Dismiss the special circumstances, alleged sentencing enhancements – all gun enhancements and gang allegations – ‘in the interest of justice,’ at the direction of LA County DA Gascón, in the Dominguez case.” The judge didn’t buy any of it and asked: “And the interest of justice is met how?”
The District attorneys also challenge the veracity of Gascón’s claim in his Special Directive regarding sentencing enhancements that states, “It shall be the policy of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office that the current statutory ranges for criminal offenses alone, without enhancements, are sufficient to both hold people accountable and also to protect public safety.”
“Such a proposition is patently untrue,” the CDAA’s say.
“In another example illustrating a disregard for a victim’s rights, yet another directive requires that Los Angeles County prosecutors not attend parole hearings,” the CDAA says. “Moreover, prosecutors are directed to support—in writing—a grant of parole to those inmates who have served a minimum incarceration term. This directive requires that prosecutors cease from evaluating the ongoing criminal propensities of a prison inmate, because there is ‘already a presumption that people shall be released when they have reached their minimum eligibility parole date.’ In other words, prosecutors are now directed to “presume” that an inmate does not pose a danger to the victim or to the public.”
“In seeking justice, prosecutors work relentlessly and courageously for California’s crime victims,” the District Attorneys say in the letter. “Even in the most perfect of circumstances, the job of a prosecutor has always been exceptionally challenging. Now Los Angeles County’s deputy district attorneys face unprecedented demands to ignore the very oath they take as officers of the court. CDAA cannot remain silent when the ethical responsibilities of our colleagues are threatened in this manner. Nor should Californians turn a blind eye to this emerging public safety tragedy; they deserve better.”
The District attorneys remain focused on victim’s rights:
“Our constitution rightly connects a crime victim’s realization of justice to the personal safety and welfare of all of California’s citizens, and unequivocally encompasses a clear warning that—when justice for a crime victim is threatened—we are collectively threatened. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s new policy directives ignore this most vital of constitutional mandates. Although these policies are limited to Los Angeles County, the reverberations will be felt statewide. The Los Angeles County DA’s Office has historically served as a persuasive state influence. The new policy directives imperil this legacy.”
The letter was signed by CDAA President El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson, and CDAA Ethics Committee Co-Chair Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin.
Letter from Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys to California District Attorneys Association:ADDA-Letter-to-CDAA-Pres-
California District Attorneys Association letter to Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys:CDAA-Open-Letter-to-ADDA