George Gascon recently replaced Jackie Lacey and brought dramatic policy changes with him. One of the most controversial is that Gascon ordered his prosecutors not to file any sentence enhancements for any reason.
The most famous sentence enhancement is the Three Strikes Law. Gascon has been clear from the beginning of his term that this law will not be used. His orders are to dismiss the enhancement from any pending case in which it applies.
Many prosecutors are reluctant to follow this order because they believe it is illegal. Whether they are justified is an important question. But the more salacious issue is how the defense bar has inserted itself into this dispute.
The public defender, alternate public defender and other criminal defense lawyers are keeping lists of prosecutors who refuse to dismiss strikes. The rumor goes on. The defense bar will provide these lists to Gascon and his administration so that these prosecutors, and their supervisors, can be fired. The prosecutors will be fired for insubordination. The supervisors will be fired for failing to control their employees. The rumored purpose of these firings is to create job openings that can be filled with prosecutors who believe in Gascon’s changes.
Shame on the defense bar for acting this way. They should not be creating blacklists. They should not inject themselves into disputes in someone else’s office over internal policies. One lawyer should not try to get another lawyer fired over a legal disagreement.
Criminal court has been different than civil court, an environment that is notoriously uncivil. Every little transaction between civil litigators is fraught with aggression, lack of mutual trust, an unprofessionalism. As a result, civil litigators waste their clients time and money with pointless bickering and posturing. By contrast, criminal lawyers, especially public defenders and prosecutors, often work together day after day in the courtroom. They know each other. Importantly, they have a chance to build trust with each other. That can lead to real communication, not the pointless bickering we find in the civil system. It helps the system work in a just way.
What the public defenders are doing now will break the trust and civility that used to exist in Los Angeles. An entire office is engaged in a coordinated campaign to get portions of the other office fired.