City must protect travelers at LAX through strong background checks for TNC drivers

[Michele Hanisee]

On Tuesday (August 18) a committee of the Los Angeles City Council takes up the issue of allowing so-called transportation network companies (TNC) to access Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) legally. The Board of Airport Commissioners recently adopted a policy to do so and delegated authority to the Los Angeles World Airport’s executive director to implement a permit system, however the City Council asserted jurisdiction over the matter as it is entitled to do under the city’s Charter. In doing so, multiple Council members raised important issues about public safety, concerns that the ADDA share. There are other important policy issues surrounding TNC’s such as Uber and Lyft, but our focus is the issue of traveler safety.

Tourism is such a huge part of our regional economy and local residents as well as visitors to Los Angeles must have a transportation system that is safe. As TNCs become part of the growing number of airport access options, travelers should not be picked up by drivers with manslaughter, rape, identity fraud, or other serious felony convictions. The city’s taxicab regulations require taxi drivers to submit fingerprints when they apply to drive, which are then checked against the U.S. Department of Justice criminal database. Applicants with dangerous or questionable backgrounds are rejected. TNC drivers at LAX must be subject to the same finger printing and background check requirement. Sadly, the Board of Airport Commissioners was silent on this issue and it is unclear what type of background checks will be required for TNC drivers. If there are procedures that would enhance the rigor of background checks, these should be added too.

In addition, taxi drivers (as well as transit operators and limousine drivers) are screened for driving under the influence and reckless driving and are part the California Department of Motor Vehicles “Employer Pull Notice” program. Accidents, convictions, and license suspensions are all reported to the city so that they can be reviewed and taxi driver permits revoked, if appropriate. TNC drivers at LAX also must be screened through their DMV records and be part of the DMV Employer Pull Notice program. Again, the Board of Airport Commissioners did not make this a requirement.

The City Council must mandate finger print-based background checks through the U.S. DOJ, screening of DMV records, and participation in the DMV Employer Pull Notice program for TNC drivers. In addition, both the Council and the public must know what rules apply to the TNCs at LAX. This can only be achieved if the Board of Airport Commissioners adopts specific rules rather than delegating rulemaking to airport staff. This ensures transparency in the process, allows policy makers and the public to verify that adequate public safety rules are in place, and protects the millions of travelers that use LAX each year.

As such, the City Council should reject the Board of Airport Commissioners fuzzy TNC policy and require that specific rules are adopted that protect public safety. The traveling public deserves nothing less.

Michele Hanisee is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. She can be contacted at mhanisee@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Widow of Murdered LAPD Detective Thomas Williams Speaks Out

Our most recent blog post, “California Crazy: Conspirator in Cop Killing Paroled” was about the pending parole of Voltaire Williams who was a conspirator in the murder of LAPD Detective Tom Williams.

We urge everyone to read the powerful letter from Tom’s widow Norma and then take the time to write to Governor Jerry Brown and ask him to reverse the decision of the Parole Board. You can contact the Governor directly by clicking here and referencing Voltaire Williams, CDC number E17796.   Below Norma’s letter is a sample letter you can send to the Governor.

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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

 

Norma C. Williams

August 12, 2015

 

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

ATTENTION: Legal

State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, Ca 95814

Re: Voltaire Williams (no relation)

CDC # E17796

Dear Honorable Governor Brown:

This letter is being sent to you with immense grief and sadness. I learned on August 4th that Voltaire Williams was granted a parole pending a review period of 120 days or less.

Governor Brown, I pray that YOU and your staff take the time to review all of the facts of the case.  Voltaire Williams may not have directly murdered my husband, LAPD Detective Thomas C. Williams but he was one of Daniel Jenkins’ accomplices in the murder plot.  The record shows that Voltaire Williams, at the behest of Jenkins, RECRUITED a potential assassin who backed out of the plot when he saw my husband Tom arrive at the planned location of the “hit” and suspected that the intended victim was a police officer and not a security guard as he had been informed.

As you consider the pending parole, you should also know that a murder plot against me and my children was discovered during the investigation of the murder case. It was disclosed by another one of Jenkins’ henchmen that while looking for Tom at or near the school that he had gone by our home.  A call was made to Daniel Jenkins to report that Tom was not around.  The person asked Jenkins, “The family is here – do you want me to take them out?”  That plan was obviously not carried out.

Most importantly, it is a fact that Voltaire Williams himself, only a few days before the murder, was “staked out” in front of the school in anticipation of Tom’s arrival to pick up Ryan. Tom did not show as expected. We later learned that Voltaire was there to kill Tom and in possession of a gun given to him by Daniel Jenkins. Upon hearing the news of Voltaire Williams’ pending release, my adult children and I were devastated and I hope that you will use this information to deny Voltaire parole.

You should also know that the “decision” to grant Voltaire parole pending was decided by only TWO Parole Board members – not the usual number of Board members.   If you do not personally intervene and do the right thing and reverse the decision of two people, I would like to DEMAND THAT THE FULL PAROLE BOARD review these two members’ decision and that all the facts of this case be introduced into the record.

I implore you Governor Brown to REVERSE the idiotic decision made by two people who did not weigh all the facts or take into account the real danger Voltaire poses for society.  As the record will show, after Tom’s murder, my children and I were under protection due to known and credible threats.  Voltaire is a follower and if released would resort to his old ways and associates.  He is neither remorseful nor “rehabilitated” and he has been counseled on how to “play the system” in prison.

If Voltaire Williams is released, I strongly fear that my children, my grandchildren and I will be in real danger.  That is the reason I moved out of California which was my home state and where Tom gave his life protecting others.  I am more concerned about my safety and welfare.

Please Governor Brown, do not allow the Parole Board to render this decision.  Please give me and my family peace of mind.  We always believed in the judicial system as well as did Tom. He was a wonderful father, husband and friend to many.  Tom’s memory and ultimate sacrifice should not be diminished due to prison “over-crowding” or economic reasons.  Tom was proud to be an LAPD Detective and only wanted to keep his community and family safe.  He was the son of an Army career officer and was offered an appointment to West Point. Tom turned it down by saying, “My future is being a police officer and the only department I want to join is the Los Angeles Police Department… no other.”

My children will be sending you their letters stating their thoughts. While I know that you have heard from many people in and out of law enforcement begging and pleading with you to reverse the illogical decision of two members of the Parole Board, please read their letters carefully and consider the emotional pain our family has suffered for over 30 years from a person who shows no remorse and is still a danger to the residents of California.

Sincerely,

Norma Williams

Wife of LAPD Detective Thomas C. Williams

 

 Sample Letter

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing to urge you to reverse the decision to parole inmate Voltaire Williams CDC # E17796.

Voltaire Williams was involved in the murder of Los Angeles Police Detective Thomas Williams on October 31, 1985.

The murder of Detective Williams was carefully planned over several days and committed in retaliation against an officer who was merely performing his assigned duties, the investigation of a robbery of a movie theater manager in the act of making a bank deposit at a “night drop.”

Detective Williams was assassinated in front of his six-year-old son Ryan.  Detective Williams was off duty at the time of the murder, picking up his son from the church school that he attended.  Ryan saw his father gunned down in a hail of bullets from a fully automatic MAC-10 assault rifle.  It is astonishing that neither Ryan, who was standing less than six feet away from his dad, nor any of the other children inside and outside the school, were struck by the fusillade of bullets that penetrated the nearby classroom walls.

Voltaire Williams himself sat “in wait” to kill Detective Williams the week prior to the actual murder.  Voltaire in his 2011 Parole Board hearing admitted that he accepted the contract to kill Detective Williams for $2,000 and sat across the street from the school.  He was thwarted from the killing only because Detective Williams arrived to pick up his son from a direction different from his normal route.  That is when he decided against committing the murder himself and retained someone else to commit the murder of Detective Williams.

While the state has the requirement to reduce the population of the California Prison system under the Federal mandate, you cannot possibly believe in good conscience that releasing Voltaire Williams is a suitable way to fulfill those goals.  Please overturn the decision of the Parole Board and deny his parole!

Sincerely,

XXX

California Crazy: Conspirator in Cop Killing Paroled — A Hint of Things to Come?

The headlong rush to empty California prisons of dangerous criminals who are serving life sentences has unfortunately received scant coverage by the media. Most people would be horrified to know that a record 902 “lifers” were granted parole this past year, far surpassing the numbers released in prior years.

A case in point is Voltaire Alphonse Williams, who played a central role in the brutal 1985 murder of LAPD detective Thomas Williams (no relation) in front of his young son. The goal of this assassination was to stop Detective Williams from testifying in a robbery trial. As reported in detail in a piece by Arnold Friedman in LA Observed, Williams was granted parole on Aug. 4.

Detective Williams had just picked up his six year-old son from school and was about to get into his truck when a gunman approached and unloaded 18 rounds at them. Williams only had time to tell his son to duck before being struck eight times. He was killed instantly; his son miraculously escaped unharmed.

Voltaire Williams was not the gunman. But he played a key role in attempts to kill Detective Williams so that he could not testify against Daniel Jenkins, who was about to stand trial for a violent robbery. Jenkins had hired Voltaire Williams to arrange for a hitman to murder the detective. Voltaire Williams was supervising the hitman during the first murder attempt, but the hitman backed out when he saw Williams with his son. After the hitman refused Williams’ plea to try again, Jenkins dressed in a disguise and murdered the detective himself.  The case was broken open when the hitman went to the police after the murder.

Law enforcement groups around the state, led by the  Los Angeles Police Protective League, lobbied tirelessly for Williams to remain behind bars. Their efforts appeared to have paid off. In 2014, a parole board denied parole to Williams, ruling he would not be allowed to apply again until 2017.

But this month, the parole board, on its own, suddenly granted Williams parole. There was no change in circumstances from last year, when Williams was told to wait three years to reapply. The reason for the board’s incomprehensible decision appears to be nothing more than a simple desire to empty prisons.  The magnitude of the crime, and the devastation it inflicted on Detective Williams’ family appear to be just footnotes in a move designed to free up a prison bed.

This is a parole that should NEVER have been granted. The murder of Detective Williams was a direct assault on the criminal justice system, undertaken for the sole purpose of trying to ensure that a person would not stand trial for or be convicted of a violent robbery. The justice system is ill served by the board’s inexplicable and unjustifiable reversal of course.

Why is Williams fit for parole now, when he wasn’t a year ago? How many of the 902 “lifers” who committed horrific crimes of their own were granted parole because their crimes occurred long ago and weren’t in the headlines?  On what criteria is the parole board basing its flip-flops?

The Los Angeles City Council was right in 2011 when it passed a resolution to oppose the release of Williams. Today we call on Governor Brown to fix a travesty of justice by reversing the parole board’s decision.  If you want to contact the Governor directly, click here and reference Voltaire Williams, CDC number E17796.

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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors Rely On Facts And Evidence, Not Individual Biases In Making Charging Decisions

[Bobby Grace]

A recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times bytwo Stanford law professors discussed a study they conducted that purportedly documents a lack of diversity among California prosecutors.  The op-ed created a great deal of discussion among career prosecutors in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The essential premise of the article was that criminal justice system would be fairer and more just if the local prosecutor offices were staffed with more attorneys who were of the same ethnicity or race as the communities they served.  In this claim, the authors failed.

Buried in the piece was the author’s admission their study “did not analyze how workforce diversity in prosecutors’ offices influences the outcome of criminal cases.”  Their claim that other (unnamed) researchers have found minorities receive different sentences when minorities are underrepresented by prosecutors is a non-sequitur.  Sentences are imposed by Judges, not prosecutors.  Nor was their premise of unequal treatment advance by their claim that, “respect for the law and trust in legal institutions are undermined” when prosecutors are not diverse.

I agree that diversity is laudable goal in all facets of life including the criminal justice system. Diversity is improving in prosecutor’s offices, and prosecutor gender diversity is very high.  In fact, in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office females comprise the majority of prosecutors, and the elected district attorney is an African American female.

Any lack of diversity is not the product of intentional discrimination.  Prosecutors can only be hired from one distinct population — lawyers.  Regrettably, attendance of law schools by minorities, both by color and ethnicity, is low.   African Americans and Latinos, the groups most represented as charged defendants, have low representation in the legal profession and in law schools.

Diversity is very important, but let me be clear; there is no real evidence that it affects what happens in a criminal courtroom. All prosecutors in California took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of California, and have promised to seek the fair administration of justice regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation. It is a promise that the residents of California should demand they adhere to, and if there is a failure to do so it must be exposed and corrected.

The authors of the Times opinion piece, Debbie Mukamal and David Alan Sklansky, offer no evidence whatsoever that prosecutors in California treat those accused of a crime differently based on race, creed, or sexual orientation. As an African American prosecutor I took the oath I described above. I chose this profession because it is important to me that my community gets the same fair and just law enforcement as any other group in California. I expect my Asian, Latino and white colleagues to ensure that happens in every courtroom in Los Angeles County.  Does it happen in every instance? No. Sadly racism exists in any large institution in America and the criminal justice system is no different.

The authors discuss prosecutors’ diversity by talking about high profile deadly force cases involving police officers across the country.   The public understandably has questions when a police officer kills a person who later is found to be unarmed and not attempting to unarm an officer.  While we can debate the justification of any individual killing, it is clear this issue is causing deep mistrust of the criminal justice system by communities of color. But the color of the prosecutor’s skin, their gender, or ethnic background does not determine if you will be charged with a crime by a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney.  Either the evidence supports the criminal charge, or it doesn’t.

In my experience, the prosecutors within the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office rely on facts and evidence, not individual biases, in making charging decisions and handling criminal cases. I do not know of a single Deputy District Attorney that treats cases differently based on the individual Deputy District Attorney’s race, ethnicity, or gender.  I am confident that prosecutors across the state do the same.  It should be the expectation of every person living in Los Angeles County that such professionalism exists in all cases, and that every case be handled based on the facts and evidence without consideration of the gender, race or creed of the defendant.

Diversity as a goal is laudable; it is not a substitute for ethical behavior by prosecutors, which I believe the residents of California should demand and receive.

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Bobby Grace is a Director of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at bgrace@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

The destruction Chuck Reed wants to bring to California

This past month saw verdicts rendered on San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.  The first verdict came from the City of San Jose, where after reeling from two years of real life consequences of Reed’s 2012 pension measure, the City’s Mayor announced a settlement with police and fire unions that eliminated the substantive changes Reed had enacted.

The second verdict came in the form of an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) of the initiative Reed wants to place on the 2016 ballot.  Reed’s proposed initiative would impose pension, compensation and retiree health care changes on all public employees in California.  Reed’s changes in San Jose proved to be disastrous, but the future changes he proposes for California would be catastrophic

In 2012, Reed pushed through Measure B in San Jose, as he waged a full scale war on public employees through derisive name calling, lying about the scope of pension deficits, and a refusing to consider real pension savings of $467 million at the bargaining table.

Reed’s Measure B was draconian, cutting pension benefits for future employees, imposing crippling costs on current employees who wished to stay in the pension system, and in practice ending disability benefits for all employees.  For example, San Jose police officers who wish to keep their current pensions would have to pay nearly 41% of their pay into the pension system. 

The “disability reform” in the measure was even more drastic.  Normally an officer who is injured in the line of duty and unable to return to police work receives a disability retirement.  Reed’s measure prohibited an officer from receiving disability retirement if the officer could perform any other function in the police department (dispatcher, evidence technician, etc.) — even if there was not an opening for the other position!

Needless to say, the City of San Jose became the “place to be from” for public employees, not the place to work. A once proud police department of 1,350 officers was reduced to 850 officers, as officers retired or left for other police agencies.  Recruitment fell off the cliff-Academy classes authorized for 60 cadets averaged less than 15, with many cadets leaving upon graduation for other departments.

Community public safety suffered immediately.  With a shortage of patrol officers and detectives, the crime rate soared above the national average, as murders increased 33 percent and robberies increased 37 percent over 2004 rates.  Sex crimes detectives who remain carry caseloads approaching 60 cases.  There is one property crimes detective for the entire city.  Vehicle theft increased 61%, and with motorcycle officers cut from 36 to 10, vehicle fatalities increased 61% over 2010 numbers.  The fire department was so short staffed it could not meet their minimum response times.

In addition to the exodus of employees, the City spent millions in court in an unsuccessful attempt to uphold Reed’s initiative.  A Superior Court ruled that the imposition of pension costs on employees violated the California Constitution, but did uphold the measure’s 16% pay cut if the pension increases were struck down in court.  However, rather than impose the cuts, the San Jose City Council was forced to give large raises to employees in an attempt to retain them; as an example – 10% for police officers, 14% for fighters.

Reed’s real life experiment in the City of San Jose has been an unmitigated disaster.  Unable to admit defeat, and in a statement reminiscent of the infamous “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” Reed claimed the settlement “protected much of the savings” in Measure B.  That statement ignores reality-any “savings” that occurred in the two year period came about because of the enormous number of vacant city positions.  As employees left, replacements could not be hired and public safety suffered as a result.

Reed’s 2016 ballot measure makes his Measure B look like a minor tweak.  The 2016 initiative is a full scale assault on every aspect of public employee benefits and compensation, NOT just a “pension initiative concerning future employees,” as he claims. 

Current employees will see their vested pension rights, known as the “California rule”, eliminated. This means that for future years of work the formula under which current employees accrue service credit for pensions could be decreased—or eliminated.  The same would apply for retiree healthcare benefits.  However, the initiative goes beyond pensions and retiree healthcare.  It eviscerates collective bargaining, allowing initiatives to direct the county as to what to offer in negotiations and referendums to overturn any collective bargaining agreement that may be reached.

Future employees fare worse because the initiative forbids new employees from joining the pension plan or even enrolling in a 401k plan unless specifically approved by voters.  Any plan they do join will be subject to modification or elimination by voter initiative at any point in their career.  Disability retirements for all employees, including police, firefighters and lifeguards, will be eliminated as those benefits are provided through defined benefit plans which the new employees cannot join. And, the new employees will see their salaries subject to change at any time by initiative or referendum.

The initiative affects retired employees as well, as it threatens the ability of every pension system in the state to accrue the funds needed to pay benefits.  The initiative prohibits pension funds from using commonly accepted financial techniques to close any funding gaps that may arise as a result of plan changes imposed by the initiative.  Aninternal analysis by CALSTRS released this week confirmed the fund would be put at risk should this initiative pass.

If that were not enough, local or state initiatives would be allowed to change current pension plans: those changes could include overriding state restrictions or regulations, making it highly likely plans would be destabilized or bankrupted, as well as possibly being in violation of federal or state tax requirements.

The detailed LAO analysis, the first official view of Reed’s initiative, confirms that Reed’s measure goes far beyond whether future employees may be enrolled in defined benefit plans. The LAO, after noting the initiative’s effect on current employees, disability benefits and collective bargaining, concluded that, “There is significant uncertainty as to the magnitude, timing, and direction of the fiscal effects of this measure and its effects on current and future governmental employees’ compensation,” with lengthy court battles predicted should the measure pass.

The next step before circulation of the initiative is a “Title and summary” by the Attorney General.  This, in contrast to the LAO report, will be a detailed legal analysis of the initiative.  In 2014, an accurate Attorney General analysis of a Reed pension initiative that was upheld in court prompted Reed withdraw the initiative. We will see what he does after his latest scheme undergoes legal scrutiny by the Attorney General.

Please read our previous pension blogs Attention Shoppers: Don’t Sign that Misleading Pension Petition!, Your Pension is Under Attack and Fuzzy Math Continues To Drive Public Pension Hysteria.  If you want to learn more about pensions, we encourage you to visit Let’s Talk Pensions.

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The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

California Only Needs An Execution Protocol To Carry Out The Death Penalty

[Michele Hanisee]

The world contains extremely dangerous and evil people who cannot be deterred by threat of incarceration.  I’m not talking about the average gang murder or robbery gone bad.  I am talking about the people who rape infants to death, who kidnap, torture, rape and murder children, who target police officers in the line of duty, who kill not just one, but a half dozen or dozen or more innocent victims in serial and mass murders.  These people are the reason why California still needs a death penalty.

If the punishment for one murder is life in prison, how do you punish someone for three murders or five murders?  How do you deter a prisoner serving a life sentence from killing a fellow inmate or guard if there is no additional penalty?  How can no-additional-punishment for additional murders be justice for victims?

You may be wondering what happened to California’s death penalty.  Seventeen of the 750 inmates on death row have completed all their appeals and are eligible to be executed.  So what’s the problem?   The problem is that the state does not have an execution protocol.  The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has not bothered to enact a new regulation so that they can resume executions after the last protocol was invalidated by a state court judge.

Despite the 2014 vote by a majority of Californians to keep the death penalty, the CDCR and the Governor’s office have effectively been nullifying the law by failing to enact a regulation by which to enforce that law.  While the CDCR details the history of the death penalty on their website, they fail to acknowledge that  a draft of a protocol for the single-drug method of execution that the state was requested to switch to by a Federal Court Judge has been sitting on the desk of the CDCR for over a year now, gathering dust.

It is easy to see why Governor Brown would be reluctant to put the state in a position to resume executions.  With 17 inmates having exhausted all appeals, it would put Governor Brown in the awkward position of being an anti-death penalty governor who executed the most condemned inmates of any governor in state history. The Governor can’t even grant most of them clemency since the State Constitution prohibits the Governor from granting clemency to a person “twice convicted of a felony.” So, instead of carrying out the law, the Governor is asking the Legislature for $3.2 million to open nearly 100 more cells on death row.

A lawsuit filed by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation on behalf of crime victims, Bradley Winchell and Kermit Alexander pressed the issue and led to a settlement that will hopefully put the state in a position to resume executions in a year or two. The last execution in California occurred in 2006.   The settlement requires CDCR to begin promulgating an execution protocol within 120 days of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Glossip v. Gross

The Supreme Court ruled that the sedative midazolam can be used without violating the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. It should be noted that some people opposed to the death penalty support physician for assisted suicide which then begs the question; how can an execution drug be considered cruel when it’s the same drug being used by doctors for assisted suicide?  The court answered the question, it is not.

There are still hurdles to clear before the state stops dragging its feet and implements the voter approved death penalty.  All state regulations are subject to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) which requires that the proposed regulation undergo a public vetting process that permits the public to comment on the proposed regulation.   This concept makes sense when you are talking about a regulation covering business or industry.  It allows the affected business to provide input about how the new rules would affect them and lobby for changes.   But in the context of an execution protocol, allowing public commentary and requiring the department to provide a “meaningful response” to every single comment, creates a logjam.   The last time CDCR put an execution protocol though the APA process they were flooded with over 30,000 comments from death penalty opponents from all over the country.

Marin County Superior Court Judge Fay D’Opal is the one who ruled the last protocol invalid.  She said that CDCR did not “meaningfully” respond to every single one of the 30,000 comments and that CDCR failed to explain why it did not adopt the single-drug execution method recommended by its own expert.

If California does manage to get past the APA and get a regulation enacted, there will be few remaining barriers.  The United States Supreme Court decisions in Baze v. Rees and in Glossip v. Gross have rejected challenges to the three-drug protocol formerly used by most states including California and the new two-drug protocol being used in Oklahoma.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has already denied stays to single drug executions in other states within its jurisdiction.

Once California has an execution protocol in place, there is little the Governor or the Attorney General can do to thwart the implementation of the law.   After all appeals are final, jurisdiction over these cases returns to the local District Attorney and the local courts.   It is the local District Attorney and court who then schedule an execution date.  CDCR has no more power to refuse compliance than they have to refuse to accept a sentenced prisoner for housing.

It is important to remember that only a jury of one’s peers can impose death – not the police, not the District Attorney, not the judge.  Jury verdicts are rendered by the citizens of the community because they have the strongest interest in keeping their communities safe and protecting residents from the criminals who would prey on them.  The people of this state voted to keep the death penalty and the Governor and Department of Corrections have an obligation to honor the will of the voters and impose the law of this state.

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Michele Hanisee is Vice President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. She can be contacted at mhanisee@laadda.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.

Sanctuaries from Justice

[Marc Debbaudt]

The recent murder of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco has cast a harsh spotlight on “sanctuary cities,” a term given to communities that shelter illegal immigrants and where local law enforcement agencies are discouraged if not outright forbidden from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The suspect in Steinle’s murder, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, is an illegal immigrant who had accumulated seven felony convictions and had been deported from the U.S. five times. He had been released from his most recent prison sentence shortly before he allegedly gunned down Steinle in broad daylight while she was walking with her father on a pier. He was free to roam the streets because San Francisco is one of the cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In other words, had he been held for deportation this murder would never have happened. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, he told authorities that he came to San Francisco specifically because he knew the city would not turn him over to the feds! This criminal came to San Francisco for  sanctuary and it was sadly everything but that for Steinle.

Backers of sanctuary city policies claim that crime victims and witnesses to crimes who are in the country illegally are reluctant to cooperate with police if they believe police will cooperate with immigration officials. But the policy of holding a criminal for ICE simply doesn’t apply to victims and witnesses. While their reluctance may sound plausible on the surface, it ignores one simple and inconvenient fact: there is no study or other empirical evidence showing that sanctuary city policies have helped solve crimes by increasing cooperation with police and prosecutors.

Some national leaders are pushing for passage of Kate’s Law, a federal law that would provide that if an illegal immigrant who was already deported is re-arrested in a sanctuary city, local law enforcement would be required to immediately notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to hold the illegal alien until ICE picks them up.

Some have seized upon Steinle’s murder to promote xenophobic views to further their personal political goals. That is wrong and it is abhorrent. I’m not against immigration or amnesty for those who have established themselves in our country and who obey our laws. I am against criminal immigrants and protecting immigrants who come here and commit crimes. But Steinle’s tragic death has fueled an important public policy discussion, and it has exposed the fallacy of the feel-good, laissez faire attitude toward illegal activities.

The reality is that any policy that turns a blind eye to illegal activities – including those that make it easier for people to remain in this country illegally – is a bona fide threat to public safety. Take, for example, SB 1310.

This bill, which Gov. Brown signed into law a year ago, reduced the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor from 365 days to 364 days. Why the one-day reduction?  Because under federal law, a sentence of 365 days or more classifies a crime as an aggravated felony, triggering deportation hearings for noncitizen legal immigrants.

But what the backers of SB 1310 didn’t advertise is that the law is designed to benefit those who are here illegally and commit crimes. The law does nothing for legal citizens of this country. It was constructed solely to benefit legal immigrants who do crimes and those in the country illegally as well. So one must ask – what was the true motivation behind this piece of legislation?

We all know that sanctuary cities and flawed legislation such as SB 1310 are not the only public policies that are threats to public safety. Perhaps the greatest threat of all is Proposition 47 which we discussed in a previous blog. Along with SB 1310, we’ve turned felonies into misdemeanors and then these same misdemeanors into non-deportable offenses all so that we can keep criminal illegal immigrants from being deported. Why would we even want do that?

As we know all too well, Prop. 47 coddles drug abusers and thieves – regardless of whether they are citizens, legal noncitizens or illegal noncitizens – by turning serious felonies into misdemeanors. Not surprisingly, violent crime surged 21 percent across Los Angeles during the first six months of 2015 following Prop. 47’s passage. Is that a mere coincidence? I’m sure some want to believe that.

It’s becoming clear that poor public policies promoted by callow elected officials are creating a perfect storm in which crime is able to thrive because it goes unpunished. In fact, the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association called the Department’s order that mandates “limited contact and communication with ICE representatives absent a court-issued warrant, a signed court order, or other legal requirement authorizing ICE access” reckless.

One has to wonder when that perfect storm will become a tipping point that will mark a descent into the violent lawlessness that plagued the state in the 1980s and 1990s. This isn’t just the natural swing of the pendulum back from the movement that led to Three Strikes. This is a concerted effort by some pushing hard on the pendulum to further a reckless social agenda.

One also has to wonder how many more Kathryn Steinles will be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness before our elected officials do the right thing and take meaningful action to restore sensible cooperation with ICE that protects all law abiding residents in the state, legal or illegal.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys.

ADDA participation in the political process

As we approach the elections of 2016, we would like to reiterate the reasons for the ADDA’s involvement in the political process and our criteria for involvement in various races and ballot initiatives.

Through our ADDA Political Action Committee (PAC), we take a proactive role in representing the interests of nearly 1,000 deputy district attorneys in Los Angeles County that we represent. We use the PAC to amplify your voices in the political process through candidate endorsements. We concentrate on candidates and issues that effect and influence our compensation, benefits, work environment and professional standards.  In order to best represent your interests, it is imperative that we remain informed and involved in the local, county, regional, state and national political processes as well as legislation that impacts our daily work life. Our PAC serves as our voice in that process and is a comprehensive resource on candidates and issues.

As a matter of policy, the ADDA will endorse candidates for the key LA County-wide offices: Judicial Officer, District Attorney, Board of Supervisors, Sheriff and Assessor.

Decisions on whether to endorse for Los Angeles City Attorney, California statewide offices and California legislature, or ballot initiatives are made on a case-by-case basis.

For judicial offices, the ADDA discourages multiple deputy district attorneys running in the same judicial race. The ADDA will consider endorsing the deputy district attorney who first files for a particular office.  Only in unusual circumstances will ADDA consider endorsing multiple deputy district attorneys in the same judicial race. In order for there to be multiple endorsements in a single race there must be a super majority vote of the ADDA board.

Our standardized process starts with a questionnaire presented to all candidates. The questionnaire covers a wide range of background information that gets to the character and personal integrity of the candidates.

For incumbents seeking re-election, we look closely at their voting records, past support and assistance on issues, bill/motion sponsorship or support, and an assessment of their commitment to public safety, officer safety, criminal justice and public employees.

Those candidates who return our questionnaire are invited to a screening interview with the ADDA’s Endorsement Committee to judge the qualifications of each candidate and the affect an endorsement would have on the ADDA membership.

We publish these guidelines ahead of the election season so our process of endorsements and involvement with political candidates is transparent and understood by our members, candidates, and the public.

We look forward to the elections of 2016, and will keep our membership informed of our participation in those elections. If you have questions or comments, please get in touch with an ADDA board member to learn more.

To read our previous blogs click here. If you have friends or family who would like to be added to our mailing list, click here.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.

 

Legislation Calling for Independent Police Prosecutor is Unnecessary

[Marc Debbaudt]

California Assembly Bill 86, which was introduced this year, seeks to remove District Attorney Offices from reviewing police shootings and deciding if criminal charges should be issued. This bill reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of a prosecutor and the administration of justice.  It is bad public policy and, indeed, would undermine the pursuit of justice and threaten the safety of police officers and residents throughout California.

In the words of famed Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, “a prosecutor should seek justice” when making a decision to file charges.  Seeking justice does not mean filing charges when injustice would result. It does not mean filing charges to satisfy politics, public opinion or make a social statement. And it does not mean a District Attorney’s Office should abandon its role as gatekeeper of justice and pass the buck by filing charges to let the jury decide.

In the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Justice System Integrity Division evaluates each civilian death that results from interaction with police.  Their standard for filing charges is whether there is legally sufficient and admissible evidence to prove the defendant is guilty of the charged offenses. The filing prosecutor must conclude that a reasonable fact finder (either a judge or jury) would convict the defendant given the most plausible, reasonably foreseeable defense inherent in the prosecution evidence. This decision is then approved by the District Attorney. It is widely known among participants in the criminal justice system, if not the public, that: “To be reasonable is not to be perfect, and so the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials, giving them fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection.”  Heien v. North Carolina (2014) 574 US ___ , WL 7010684.

Unfortunately, AB 86 accepts the false notion that local District Attorneys cannot be entrusted with evaluating cases in which a civilian dies after interaction with the police.  Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, who authored the bill, claims “There is skepticism in the current process where local DA’s investigate cops they work most closely with.  To foster better transparency in the process, a common sense reform would be to have an independent review process by the Department of Justice to investigate police shootings where a civilian death occurs.”

Hogwash!

In the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office there are nearly 1000 deputy district attorneys. No one is investigating “cops they work most closely with.” That just doesn’t happen in my experience, and this office would not tolerate that kind of obvious bias.

Although the bill’s author claims he only seeks to ensure “the community trusts that fatalities are thoroughly reviewed” and is not seeking the prosecution of more officers, the reality of his goal is different.  The people who mistrust District Attorney reviews will be no more trusting of an independent prosecutor’s reviews unless officers are continually prosecuted.  These critics aren’t upset at the review process; they are upset that more police officers aren’t prosecuted.  One just has to listen to the news to hear countless demands in the aftermath of recent police shootings that the officers should be charged and that it should be left to the “jury to decide” if the action was criminal.

Events in Baltimore illustrate why prosecutions driven by public fervor are terrible public policy.  In announcing her decision to prosecute six officers a scant 24 hours after receiving the case reports,  Baltimore States Attorney Marilyn Mosby made clear she was reacting to perceived public pressure when she stated, “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for no justice, no peace.”

Mosby’s decision to prosecute based upon public pressure has created dangerous conditions for law enforcement professionals.  Highly respected  Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told the City Council, “If I get out of my car and make a stop for a reasonable suspicion that leads to probable cause but I make a mistake on it, will I be arrested? They pull up to a scene and another officer has done something that they don’t know, it may be illegal, will they be arrested for it? Those are things they are asking.”

As a result, Baltimore police have stopped actively policing.  Arrests in Baltimore have  dropped 50 percent in recent weeks, but not because crime is dropping.  In fact, with 38 homicides, this was the deadliest month in Baltimore in fifteen years.

The  Peace Officers Research Association of California got it right when they stated, “District Attorneys are elected by their counties to handle these types of investigations.  District Attorneys have made decisions for years, and have overseen difficult cases that have been scrutinized heavily by the media and public.  The concern that there would be a conflict of interest between a District Attorney and officers they may work with is unfounded.   District Attorneys routinely prosecute peace officers when they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  It is a District Attorney’s ethical duty to ensure the fair administration of justice, without regard to who is being investigated.”

AB 86 is bad public policy, plain and simple. It will set in motion a chain of events where police know that their actions will be scrutinized by an “independent” prosecutor, a position created by political pressure to go after the police. This “independent prosecutor” won’t be independent at all but will face public pressure to charge, and instead of making the just decision up front whether to file or not, will instead choose to let a jury decide if an officer’s action was criminal.  The logical response is what we see by Baltimore police officers:  Avoid any situation that may remotely involve the potential of use of force and a potential subsequent prosecution.

Finally, the “skepticism” surrounding police shooting is not a problem that rises to the level of indicting the system and requiring fundamental change. Not to minimize the disturbing nature of legitimate police misconduct when it occurs, it is a statistical anomaly given the number of police officers and crimes they investigate every day, every year, across this nation. That the media sensationalizes the few examples, the actual numbers demonstrate that the system is working at virtual perfection and correcting itself when the anomalies occur. Creating an additional independent prosecutor bureaucracy to address anomalies does not cure the problem, but creates a new one on top of a system that is already operating at a high level of integrity. Nothing is solved, just politics and money thrown at an exaggerated problem creating a whole new opportunity for unexpected consequences and collateral damage.

The Assembly has put aside AB 86 for this year. Let’s hope the bill is killed forever. The proposed law is not just dangerous for police and residents, it’s unnecessary because the Attorney General already has the authority to investigate and prosecute any case in which they believe criminal conduct has occurred.

Marc Debbaudt is President of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at mdebbaudt@laadda.com. The view and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ADDA, which represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys.

Fuzzy Math Continues To Drive Public Pension Hysteria

Public employee pension systems are an integral part of recruiting and retaining high-performing public employees. They align the interests of the employer and the employee.  A pension allows attorneys to work for the county District Attorney despite the prospect of a higher income in private practice. Once hired, DDAs have an incentive to stay during the most productive years of their career; and at the end of that career, DDAs can leave the office rather than cling to the job because it is their only source of income.

Pensions are particularly important in public agencies such as Los Angeles County, where employees are not enrolled in Social Security. Instead, a pension is the sole source of guaranteed income during retirement.

A District Attorney’s Office with a 401k plan in lieu of a pension will be an office with short-term and higher-cost employees.  Future DDA’s, with neither Social Security nor a guaranteed pension will undoubtedly demand higher wages to pay bills and fund their retirement-or will leave for  higher or equivalent-paying jobs in which Social Security becomes a backup income stream.

We know from recent media accounts that John Arnold is planning national PR campaign against pensions. While we wait for Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio to release the initiative details after they finish huddling with the out-of-state handlers who will be funding their pension rollback scheme, we will use this blog to address and debunk some of the dishonest arguments that have been employed against public pensions.

Overstating the costs of public pensions is a staple of pension opponents.  It is sometimes done through outright lies, as seen by Chuck Reed who lied in the run-up to a 2012 pension initiative in San Jose.  When he was mayor of San Jose, Reed repeatedly and falselyclaimed the initiative was needed because 2015 pension costs would soar $650 million; a state audit revealed the 2015 projected costs to only be $320 million.   (The actual 2015 costs ended up at $308 million.)  Caught red-handed overstating the pension costs by 100 percent, Reed defended his false and misleading continual use of the $650 million figure by simply proclaiming, “The figure is not overstated, the figure is just a number.”

Another way to overstate costs is to inflate the cost of employer contributions.  Pensions are funded by a combination of investment income and yearly mandatory contributions from employees and employers.  Since annual investment returns cannot be known in advance, pension funds use “assumed rates of return” to estimate investment income for each year, with the balance needed each year coming from contributions. Pension opponents routinely generate headline-grabbing pension contribution costs by using assumed rates of return that are drastically lower than the pension systems’ assumptions because  a lower assumed rate dramatically increases the employer contribution.

Yet another misleading tactic is to compare employer pension costs with prior years where the costs were unusually low. This is done by using as the comparison point a year in which the employer contribution was reduced or eliminated due to a “pension contribution holiday.”  Employers often reduce their contribution in years where higher assets are generated by stock market gains.  As outlined in a 2011 Paul Weber op-ed , using these artificially low contribution rates was a particular favorite of former Governor Schwarzenegger and his “special advisor,” David Crane. They often cited rates from the early 2000’s – which were lowered because of “pension holidays” funded by market gains in the late 1990’s as the comparison for then-current contribution rates.

The current controversy over the University of California system and the increase in tuition and costs, partly to fund employee pensions, is a notable example of how pension holidays end up affecting current operating budgets.  In 1990, the UC system began a 20-year contribution holiday and used money that should have been paid into the pension system to fund ongoing operating costs.  The result: funded status plunged from 156 percent in 1990 to 75 percent in 2010, when contributions resumed.  The funded status would have been 120 percent in 2010 had contributions been made, and today’s larger payments would have been unnecessary.

Most recently, pension opponents have invented an argument that ongoing pension costs are “crowding out” other government services.  In this narrative, every dollar spent to fund pensions is a dollar that could be used to hire more employees or provide more services.  The “crowd out” argument, whether using actual or inflated pension costs, ignores several facts, such as:  the municipal budgets are bouncing back from the lows of 2009; the CALPERS and CALSTRS studies have shown every $1 in pension payments generates $10.85 in economic activity; and that as a result of the Legislature’s 2012 pension reform, public employees are paying more for pensions, with new employees paying 50 percent of the costs.

When all else fails, opponents resort to the argument that public employees should not be exempt from the 401k scheme which, as we outlined in our last column, has failed in its goal to provide retirement income for Americans. This “race to the bottom” argument was the mainstay of a recent pension rollback initiative in Ventura County, where the slogan stated: “public employees should receive a retirement benefit that is no better than the citizens that pay for it.”   Or, as an OC Register columnist recently stated, public employees are simply the lucky ones who get a secure retirement; “Folks watching their 401(k) accounts disappear can attest to that.

We will continue to use this column to update you on the attempt to roll back your pensions, and provide factual information to combat the fallacious arguments that will be used to advance the initiative.  Stay tuned.

Please read our previous blog titled “Your Pension is Under Attack” and if you want to learn more about pensions and get the facts, please visit a great website called Let’s Talk Pensions. It is run by Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of more than 1.6 million Californians representing public employees and retirees.

The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.