By Michele Hanisee
In Berger v. United States, the Supreme Court proclaimed that a prosecutor is the “servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer.” The mission statement of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office amplifies this by stating our mission is “protecting our community through the fair and ethical pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of crime victim’s rights.”
Then there is the ACLU, who in 23 questions to district attorney candidates in California reveals a viewpoint where the wants and needs of criminals are paramount, where victims are ignored, and where elected public officials are called upon to ignore the laws enacted by the legislature and voters rather than enforce those laws.
Take for example this question: “Do you agree that prosecutor practices have contributed significantly to mass incarceration?” Apparently, it has never occurred to the ACLU that the reason people are incarcerated in state prison is because they voluntarily committed a crime. In fact, more than 70% of those in state prison are convicted of a crime against another person. But the suffering of victims means nothing to the ACLU. (And, of course, there is the inconvenient fact that judges and juries, not prosecutors, make the ultimate decision as to whether criminals get incarcerated.)
The ACLU questionnaire is replete with similar questions demanding that district attorney candidates agree to disregard the laws enacted by the voters of this state and their elected officials and instead kowtow to the criminal-friendly agenda of the ACLU. These include asking candidates if they will implement practices that “reduce the jail population and state prison commitments by a specific percentage,” if they will reduce “reliance on incarceration,” and if they support the complete end of money bail. Of course, there is also a death penalty question, with the ACLU demanding to know if the DA candidate will ignore the will of the voters who enacted Prop 66 and instead pledge never to seek the death penalty. What the ACLU is doing is calling for elected DA’s to repudiate the oath they took to uphold the law and demanding instead that they ignore the law.
The real puzzler in the questionnaire, which provides an insight into the ACLU mindset, asks whether the candidate will avoid prosecuting those who use guns to commit crimes, but instead use “gun violence reduction strategies proven to reduce shootings.” What those “strategies” are and how they have been “proven” is not explained. (And if such proven strategies exist – please — tell us what they are!) Clearly the ACLU does not understand that in prosecuting those who use a gun to commit a crime, the goal is not only to stop a future shooting but to hold a criminal accountable for terrorizing an innocent victim. Not surprisingly, the word “victim” only appears once in the long questionnaire.
We at the ADDA call upon elected district attorneys and those running for election to refuse to answer this biased questionnaire that demands you to repudiate the oath you took as an attorney and the oath you must take upon entering your elected office — to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of the State of California and to uphold the laws of this state.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.