By Eric Siddall
California’s constitution guarantees public safety. It expressly forbids the early release of prisoners for financial reasons. It gives victims’ rights regarding their cases. It allows prosecutors to use relevant evidence in court. These are just some of the public safety rights currently in our constitution.
Why are they in our constitution? Well, in large part thanks to Governor Jerry Brown and the disastrous decisions of his supreme court appointees when he served as governor in the 1970’s. Most notable was Rose Bird appointed in 1977. She led an unabated assault on victims of crime. Her decisions always protected criminals and disregarded the rights of victims. In case after case, she sought to handcuff prosecutors by excluding relevant evidence from being presented in court.
Her rulings were so outrageous that Californians voted to restrict state appellate judges from making decisions on search and seizure law based upon state law. Instead, voters mandated that California judges must follow federal rulings on search and seizure which was considered less friendly to criminals.
The excesses of the Bird court ended when she was thrown out of office. Her removal was the only time in California history that a sitting chief justice of the California Supreme Court was unceremoniously ousted from office. She didn’t just lose her election – she was crushed by huge margins with a whopping 67 percent voting to remove her.
Thirty years after her removal, Governor Brown failed to learn his lesson. He wants to take California back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. The bad old days where victims’ rights were ignored and the criminal was king. This time, using every effort and trick at his disposal, he wants to hoodwink us by having us believe that his proposed constitutional amendment promotes public safety by calling it the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act.”
What Governor Brown wants is “Rose Bird 2.0.”, by changing the penal code via initiative instead of Supreme Court rulings. Not satisfied with the release of over 50,000 prisoners, Brown’s goal is to give the remaining 100,000 inmates their chance of early release. He wants to undermine every piece of legislation that was enacted by voters in the wake of the disaster that was Rose Bird. Let’s be clear, Brown wants us to believe that he is forced to ask for these changes, but that is not the case since we are in compliance with the federal mandate to lower the prison population.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.