The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s union filed a lawsuit against District Attorney George Gascón on Wednesday, December 30, asking the courts to stop some of the guidelines he had requested.
Since taking office earlier this month, Gascón has announced several policies that have been despised by many prosecutors and police unions, including the removal of bail and the improvement of conviction. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, representing around 800 prosecutors, stated in the lawsuit that Gascón’s guidelines were illegal and unfair to ask prosecutors to follow suit.
Michele Hanisee, president of ADDA, said the overall aim of the lawsuit is to get the courts to step in and tell prosecutors how to proceed.
“(Prosecutors) feel really torn because they want to keep their jobs,” said Hanisee. “But they don’t want to violate their ethical principles, which they must adhere to in the state of California.”
In the lawsuit, the courts were asked to stop enforcing the special guidelines and issue an injunction. Gascón said in a statement Wednesday that the court refused to file the injunction, but an ADDA statement said they had withdrawn the motion so it could be heard at a later date next month.
“(Prosecutors) are officials who deserve our greatest respect and gratitude,” said Gascón. “You certainly have my – and a sincere invitation to join me in making these much-needed changes. As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, this new approach will require some fine-tuning and tolerance for change. “
A joint statement by three law professors – UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, David Mills, Professor of Legal Practice and Lecturer at Stanford Law School, and Michael Romano, Director of the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School – argued that the district The attorney has “full authority” to enact the law at his own discretion in his county. Chemerinsky and Romano are on Gascón’s transition team, according to his campaign website.
“The association’s now claiming the practice is unlawful reflects more of their longstanding opposition to reform and the will of millions of Angelenos than the legality of DA Gascón’s policies,” the statement said Tuesday. “Gascon’s policies will improve health and safety in Los Angeles and initiate a much-needed process to reduce the epidemic of mass incarceration.”
The lawsuit focuses on removing some penalty enhancements that extend a defendant’s sentence for certain allegations. Gascón earlier ordered prosecutors not to seek amendments to sentences, but later announced that some – for hate crimes and cases involving children, for example – could remain amid the backlash.
Among the improvements mentioned in the lawsuit is the three strikes law, enacted by voters in 1994, which adds prison terms to previously convicted offenders. According to the ADDA, it should remain as a state law for prosecutors in court. And under that law, prosecutors must take action against those previous convictions, according to the lawsuit.
“The elected prosecutor said he believed some of these laws were bad or unconstitutional, like the three strikes law,” said Hanisee. “But it is not in the authority of an elected official to decide what the law is and what is constitutional.”
The special guidelines apply to both future and pending cases that have already raised problems in courtrooms. A judge earlier this month denied a prosecutor’s request to withdraw sentence amendments in a pending case, saying she disagreed with Gascón’s policies.
The lawsuit names several other judges who also disagreed with the guidelines.
“I understand it came from above. I understand why you are filing the motion, but the court will deny the motion on each and every one of the other allegations, ”Judge Laura F. Priver told a prosecutor who withdrew allegations of previous conviction in one case on the case.
“You have an ethical duty to do your job and continue law enforcement,” Priver said. “You shouldn’t be allowed to give up the charges at this point.”
In Gascón’s statement, he said that penalty enhancements have shown that excessive sentences make relapse worse and create more victims in the future.
“They are out of date, inconsistent and applied unfairly,” Gascón said in a previous statement. “Also, there is no compelling evidence that they improve public safety.”
The filing of the lawsuit takes place one day before a planned “Candlelight Vigils for Victims of Violent Crime” on Thursday evening in front of the justice hall, which is organized by a Facebook group that Gascón wants to call back. The group, which had around 35,000 members as of Wednesday, said the district attorney’s special orders put “criminals first, victims last.”
Brian Claypool, an attorney handling child abuse cases, was one of the organizers of the recall effort. In addition to public safety concerns about the bail removal and some improvements to the sentencing, Claypool said he agrees with the ADDA with its concerns.
“In terms of the lawsuit, it is necessary and viable,” Claypool said. “Gascón is not a legislator, he defies the voters. He was not elected to legislate and create his own laws. “