Monthly Archive: December 2020

Recalling a District Attorney

Although George Gascón ran as a “criminal justice reform” candidate for Los Angeles District Attorney, a great many people are surprised and horrified at how far he is going to dismantle sentencing in criminal cases. As a result, many people are asking whether and how a district attorney can be recalled. The short answer is yes, but the process cannot be officially started until early March, and it is going to take either a big pot of money or a large army of volunteers to gather signatures. Continue reading . . .

LA Deputy DAs Sue to Block Gascón’s Pro-Criminal Directives

A civil lawsuit filed the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) in Los Angeles Superior Court this morning is seeking a writ of mandate to prohibit newly-elected DA George Gascón from forcing the prosecutors in his office to violate California charging and sentencing law.  In those directives, the District Attorney ordered deputy district attorneys to dismiss pending strike priors, special circumstance enhancements, gang enhancements, firearm allegations, and certain other “felony prior” enhancements. The directives prohibited the filing of strike prior enhancements in new cases.   A statement regarding the lawsuit from the AADA notes that the directives violate California law, which imposes a mandatory duty on prosecutors to plead and prove strike priors. Dismissals of those priors can only be based on individual circumstances, not a blanket policy. Similarly, special circumstance allegations that will result in a life without parole sentence cannot be dismissed under the section cited by the directive.

Continue reading . . .

Judge Rejects Gascón’s Back Door Plea Deal

At a December 15 preliminary hearing in Los Angeles, a top advisor for the newly elected District Attorney George Gascón, offered a plea deal giving an alleged gang murderer 7 years in prison.  Bill Melugin of Fox 11 reports that a transcript of the hearing indicates that Mario Trujillo, a special advisor to Gascón, went behind the back of the Deputy District Attorney assigned to the case, offering a plea deal to the defense attorney of seven years with no enhancements or special circumstances.   When the deputy prosecutor assigned to the case announced that under a special directive issued by Gascón, the DA’s office would not be seeking any sentencing enhancements or special circumstances in the interest of justice, the judge questioned the interest of justice behind reducing the murderer’s sentence.  The deputy replied, “I believe that it is the new D.A.’s position……that extended prison sentences in Los Angeles county are far too long;  that they are costly and ineffective and harm people in underserved communities.”

Continue reading . . .

Lying to the Voters in Ballot Arguments

The ballot materials provided to California voters include pro and con arguments on the initiatives and other measures submitted to the voters. Opponents tend to exaggerate how extreme the measures are, and proponents tend to play down these claims.

What happens when a proponent’s argument simply lies about what the initiative’s language says? Not surprisingly, the California Supreme Court held today that the plain language controls over the argument. Does it matter if the shamelessly lying proponent is the Governor of the State? Nope. Continue reading . . .

LA’s Welcome Mat for Career Criminals

Kern County, California, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer has this op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian, satirically inviting the habitual criminals of her county to move to L.A.

Are you a convicted felon with a history of violent crime? A murderer? Rapist? Child molester? Human trafficker? Drunk driver who kills? Do you take pleasure in using firearms to ratchet up body counts in all types of crimes? Do you think it unfair that your history of violent crimes makes your punishment for new crimes higher? If so, I have an exciting opportunity for you. Continue reading . . .

Pardoning Your Pals

The President’s plenary power to pardon is an essential part of his authority as head of the executive branch.  The Framers recognized that, sometimes, the reach of criminal law is too wide and too harsh, even if correct under its black letter.  Hence the power to grant clemency.

This week, however, and today in particular, President Trump pardoned a number of people, not because the system had treated them unfairly, but  —  we have no realistic alternative to believing  —  because they were his buddies or political allies.

There is no way to look at this other than as an abuse of office.  Using your power (and your trust) as an officer of the government simply to shower benefits on your friends must be high on the list of what it means to be corrupt.  I was honored to be one of President Trump’s nominees for the Sentencing Commission, but his actions today were wrong.  In a later post, I will examine what if anything can be done to rein in abuses of this sort (which, I might add, are anything but exclusive to Donald Trump).

Detroit Sues BLM

The city of Detroit has filed a civil lawsuit against Black Lives Matter seeking damages for the destruction of property and injuries to police sparked by protests that turned into riots over the summer.  Dom Calicchio of Fox News reports that during the rioting several Detroit police officers suffered severe injuries.  The suit was filed in response to a lawsuit filed by BLM activists claiming that police used excessive force against demonstrators.  The city’s counteraction has infuriated Detroit Congresswoman Tashida Talib, a member of the “Squad”, who characterized the suit as “an unthinkable assault on our constitutional rights.”   I was not aware that the First Amendment included the right to loot and burn businesses and throw bricks at police officers.  Good for Detroit.

Marathon Bomber Update

Last Friday, I noted the Marathon Bomber case in the Supreme Court and discussed how this is the perfect test case for President-elect Biden’s new-found opposition to the death penalty in all cases. If he really means all cases, he should demonstrate that opposition to the nation in a case that cries out for that penalty.

Today, the Supreme Court scheduled the Tsarnaev case for conference on January 8. Continue reading . . .