Los Angeles County prosecutors file lawsuit towards new district lawyer over justice reform efforts

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Criminal justice reformer unseats Los Angeles district attorney

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s union has sued its boss, newly elected District Attorney George Gascón, for attempting to enforce judicial reforms.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the LA District Supreme Court, aims to exonerate Gascón’s platform by proposing to end his mandate so as not to seek further improvements to criminal conviction, including gun possession, gang membership and Violation of the “three strikes” law, which extends the sentences for suspects.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County argued in the lawsuit that deputy district attorneys could not follow guidelines without violating the state’s criminal code.

“The guidelines violate California law, which requires prosecutors to plead and prove strike priorities,” the union said in a statement. “The dismissal of these superiors can only be based on individual circumstances, not on a blanket policy.”

Gascón said Los Angeles County voters “accepted” the effort when they elected him.

“This new approach requires some fine-tuning and tolerance for change,” he said in a statement. “I invite you to an open and respectful debate based on the facts … However, people have spoken, the direction is clear and in the end we all want the same things – security and equal justice under the law.”

Gascón, a former Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief and District Attorney for San Francisco, was elected in November after running as a reformer and police critic who condemned Jackie Lacey’s hand-off record of law enforcement officers killing suspects.

After George Floyd’s national protests, his victory was celebrated by activists who supported his friendlier approach to law enforcement.

But the union that advocated the firm Lacey immediately clashed with Gascón, arguing that his gentler law enforcement policies would lead to an increase in crime.

“Respondent George Gascón has issued special guidelines within weeks of his appointment as District Attorney for Los Angeles that are not only radical, but clearly illegal,” the union said in the lawsuit.

State law “mandates” the use of appropriate enhancements, the lawsuit states, and prosecutors cannot be “ordered” to violate them. The union claims in the lawsuit that Gascón “dispatched agents to monitor prosecutors during their hearings to ensure they are complying with his policy”.

The filing is intended to force Gascon to repeal its policy.

He responded to the union’s initial criticism by scaling back parts of his mandate: improvements can be sought for hate crimes, crimes against children and the elderly, and other allegations that meet his criteria, he said in mid-December.

But Gascón stood up to the core of his reform policies, saying gang improvements and other add-ons don’t reduce relapses or crime. He said there are more than 100 opportunities for prosecutors to improve under California law.

“Excessive incarceration – the practice of sending people to jails and jails for too long – does not increase security,” he said in a statement.