Newly-elected LA DA George Gascon has caused a firestorm with his orders to ignore conduct enhancements in Los Angeles County. This policy leads to the early release for those who commit the most egregious crimes against the most vulnerable victims. The prosecutors that have to carry out these orders are understandably unhappy about it, especially since compliance with the orders are illegal in some situations. Instead of listening to his prosecutors, Gascon asked the defense bar to report them to him, so that he could discipline them. This DA blacklist has only made the crisis worse. Now, Gascon wants to extend the blacklist to judges that won’t go along.
On December 15, Gascon issued a new special directive to his prosecutors. If a judge refuses to allow the prosecutor to dismiss all the enhancements the prosecutor must report the judge to her head deputy. Why? The case of judge Shellie Samuels explains things. Prosecutors had filed a case against four defendants that included enhancements. The prosecutor, in compliance with Gascon’s policy, moved the court to dismiss the enhancements. The court conducted the analysis required by the Penal Code and found that it was not met. She refused to dismiss the enhancements. Someone reported Judge Samuels to Gascon. He responded by “blanket papering” the judge. This is a criminal procedure where the DA can prevent any criminal case from going to a judge. It effectively removes them from the criminal courts. Two days after she was blanket papered, judge Samuels recanted and began to go along.
This blacklist promoted a firestorm on the bench. No fewer than five judges are quoted in opposition by the Met News. The controversy even reached the California Supreme Court. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakaueye said, “it appears these issues are pending before the Los Angeles Superior Court and may eventually come before this court.”
Responsible district attorneys don’t issue illegal orders to their own employees. They don’t blacklist their own prosecutors for principled non-compliance. They don’t ask the defense bar to report prosecutors for internal discipline. Many hoped that Gascon’s bad behavior would be limited to his own employees. Sadly, he has extended his bullying to the bench. Will it stop there?