The Lemon Lawyer

By Ryan Erlich

If you buy a new car in California and it doesn’t work, the state’s Lemon Law compels the carmaker to fix it, replace it, or buy it back.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had something like that for local politicians?

Here’s why I ask..

I’ve been a deputy district attorney for almost ten years. And in that time, I’ve talked with a lot of people about what I do.

Most of them don’t work in the criminal justice system. They’re artists, waiters, teachers, writers, nurses, librarians, barbers, pastors, and moms and dads with other things on their minds. They all ask questions, mostly about the cases we handle in court. I blame this on true crime podcasts and TV shows.

Until this year, those questions usually began with “who” or “what” or “when” or “how,” like “what was your craziest case?” or “how was it solved?

But since George Gascon became Los Angeles County’s District Attorney, more are asking questions that begin with “why.” And I don’t mean “why does crime happen?” or “why do we need prisons?”

Now, they’re asking “why are things so much worse now than they were a year ago?” “Why did I vote for this guy?” “Why do I still live in Los Angeles?

The people asking these questions are frustrated, mad, and afraid. They also regret not paying more attention to the 2020 District Attorney’s race when they had the chance.

And despite what Gascon and his political team say, these folks are not right-wingers or reactionary Republicans. Most of them are politically left-of-center. Some are proud, self-described progressives. All care deeply about social justice and racial equity.

Their anger is not irrational.

Many of them — including many of my friends — voted for Gascon because they believed, in the post-George Floyd / Black Lives Matter era, that he would prosecute “killer cops” who unlawfully used force against people of color.

And they felt good about casting that vote. Because, in their minds, a vote for Gascon and the brand of criminal justice reform he claimed to represent was an easy way — the easiest, in fact — for well-intentioned moderate and left-of-center voters like them to demonstrate allyship and continued political support for a nationwide movement that, at its core, stands for equal justice and righting past wrongs.

What they didn’t know was that Gascon hardly ever did that when he was San Francisco’s District Attorney. (See Mario Woods & Luis Gongora Pat.) In fact, his failure to do it made him so politically unpopular that he couldn’t run for reelection in 2019. His political toxicity was also one of the reasons he stepped down (read: quit) before his term ended.

They also didn’t know that Gascon’s claim that he “reduced violent crime in every leadership position [he’d] held” was false. Under Gascon’s “leadership,” overall reported crime in San Francisco increased 43% (32% per capita), property crime increased by 48% (37% per capita), violent crime by 11% (3.5% per capita), and arsons by almost 70% (57% per capita). When Gascon took office in January 2011, San Francisco’s per capita crime rate was 60% higher than the statewide rate; by 2019, it was 130% higher. Just last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared the city’s Tenderloin district to be a disaster area, thanks to policies Gascon championed as DA, including Proposition 47. And in his first full year as Los Angeles’ District Attorney, Gascon hasn’t lived up to his campaign promise to “make our neighborhoods safer.” In the City of Los Angeles, homicides are at a 15-year high. In Sheriff-policed areas, they’re up 47%. Violent crime has increased in both jurisdictions.

What they also didn’t know was that in his first five minutes as Los Angeles County’s District Attorney, Gascon would issue a series of blanket, quasi-illegal directives that would disproportionately harm the same communities that they sought to support with their votes. And they certainly didn’t seek out or sign up for the increase in crime that has inevitably followed.

It’s this disconnect between what Gascon promised (prosecuting “killer cops”) and what he has delivered (lawlessness and disorder) that has left so many people feeling like they’ve been taken for a ride. Because they have.

And now they aren’t just asking “why.” They are screaming it.

Why do we feel unsafe in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our cities?

Why has the violence become so random, so vicious, so pervasive, and so widespread?

Why has George Gascon refused to accept responsibility for any of it?

Why won’t he use every law and tool at his disposal to tame gun and gang violence?

Why hasn’t he fought or lobbied to make more resources available for those suffering from mental illness?

Why doesn’t he do more to help recently released prisoners successfully adapt to the most stressful and psychologically disorienting era in recent memory?

Why does he send weekly fundraising emails to political supporters, but won’t roll out a plan — any plan — to crack down on illegal firearms?

And why, despite all evidence to the contrary, does he believe that his first year as District Attorney was a success?

Why?

They’re also starting to ask another question: “What can we do about it?”

And that brings us back to California’s Lemon Law.

In November 2020, many Angelenos bought — with their votes — a very expensive “car” that just won’t work, doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and maybe never will work. It’s sitting in the District Attorney’s office and earning an annual salary of $372,000 plus benefits.

They’re tired of making the payments, no matter their politics or party.

They’re begging for repairs, asking for a refund, and searching for a replacement.

So, again, wouldn’t it be great if we had something like the Lemon Law for local politicians?

Ryan Erlich is a Deputy District Attorney and a Director 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.

Running the Office into the Ground

By Eric W. Siddall

Often questioned about his lack of prosecutorial experience, George Gascón has compared running the District Attorney’s Office to managing an airline. Experience? Expertise? They don’t matter. What matters—according to Gascón —is his management credentials.

And after one year, the Gascón administration does feel a bit like a domestic airline. Terrible service. No trust. Low employee morale. Chaotic. The feeling of being abandoned.

Los Angeles is increasingly becoming unsafe. Yet, the DA has no plan to confront this problem. Between 2019 to 2021, gun-related homicides increased 63 percent in Los Angeles County. Instead of combating this scourge by using state law-authorized gun penalties, Gascón ordered his prosecutors not to. Less than 24 hours after the brutal murder of an elderly woman by a felon with a gun, he sent out a fundraising letter touting his commitment to eliminating gun enhancements.

The surge in gun crimes is part and parcel of a broader surge in gang violence. Yet, not only has Gascón directed his prosecutors not to file gang conduct enhancements, but he eliminated half of the division’s prosecutors. He diverted the group of attorneys with the deepest expertise on gangs to units designed to speed up the released of violent convicts.

Despite evidence that criminals are exploiting Gascón’s zero-bail policy, he refuses to ensure dangerous offenders are held accountable for crimes committed while they are out on zero-bail. Felons caught with firearms are released almost immediately from custody, despite often having been arrested multiple times with guns. They are only held accountable when the situation escalates – that is, once they shoot or kill someone.

Theft offenders are on a continuous conveyer belt: arrested, released, repeat. Again, there is minimal effort by Gascón to hold them accountable. Not only does his policy require prosecutors seek zero bail, but when a repeat offender comes back on a new arrest, prosecutors are forbidden to hold them to account for committing a new offense while out on zero-dollar bail.

Sheriff Villanueva has such serious concerns about the District Attorney’s policies, he redirected a murder case to federal prosecutors. His logic clearly reflected not a lack of confidence in the line prosecutors, but a lack of trust in the DA to appropriately charge. And the sheriff is not the only law enforcement officer who has asked for federal assistance because of a lack of confidence in the DA.

Confidence in Gascón is in short supply. In fact, thirty-one cities voted no confidence on his policies. One of them, Manhattan Beach is willing to pay an additional $300,000 to not have the District Attorney prosecute its misdemeanor cases. Again, this reflects not a lack of confidence in the line prosecutors assigned to handle their cases, but a lack of confidence in Gascón himself.

In December 2021, Union Pacific—a critical player in the fragile US supply chain—sent a letter to Gascón. They implored him to reconsider his policies that have resulted in a 160 percent increase in rail theft in Los Angeles County. Typical to Gascón’s management approach, no response. Classic airline management. It is now being reported that Union Pacific is examining alternative routes to avoid having to rely on the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Angelenos don’t have that luxury. We can’t just reroute our lives.

Eric W. Siddall is Vice 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.

CalMatters.org: Prop. 47 targeted by Dem, GOP lawmakers

Little did California voters know, when they approved a 2014 ballot measure that reduced penalties for certain theft offenses, that their decision would still be making headlines in 2022.

On Tuesday, Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas of Bakersfield introduced a bill that, if passed by state lawmakers and a majority of voters, would reverse a key aspect of Prop. 47 by moving the felony threshold for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 back to $400.

Salas: “Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities. We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop. 47’s weakening of our theft laws and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again.”

Salas’ statement sharply contrasts with those from prominent Democrats including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, who have repeatedly emphasized that Prop. 47 has nothing to do with California’s surge in smash-and-grab robberies. But it could help Salas, who’s running for the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican David Valadao, court GOP voters — many of whom blame Prop. 47 for the uptick in organized retail crime.

Indeed, a few hours after Salas unveiled his bill, a group of Republican state lawmakers — including Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, James Gallagher of Yuba City and James Patterson of Fresno — introduced a proposal to repeal Prop. 47 altogether.

Article.

CBS2: Beverly Hills City Council Joins Recall of LA County District Attorney

BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA) – The Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to join the recall of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

After an original recall effort, Gascón’s opposition started a second recall effort in December.

The Beverly Hills council cites an increase in widespread crime, including follow-home robberies and smash and grab robberies as s reason for wanting to recall Mr. Gascón.

Article.