LA’s New DA: A Case of Buyers’ Remorse?

After just two years in office, more than 1,000,000 disgruntled Californians have signed a petition to recall Gavin Newsom.  But in less than two months, many Los Angelenos already have buyers’ remorse with its new district attorney, George Gascón.

A “Recall George Gascón” candlelight vigil was recently held in front of LA’s Hall of Justice by families who were victims of violent crimes. A Recall George Gascón Facebook page reports 37,000 members and features a clock counting down the days, minutes, and seconds when a recall effort can begin. By law, signature collections can’t start until Gascón has been in office for 90 days.

In his first days as DA, Gascón announced that his office will no longer seek cash bail for certain offenses, end charging juveniles as adults, and never seek the death penalty.  He also announced that prosecutors will no longer ask for enhanced sentences for defendants for gang-related activity, for the use of a gun, or for those who have already been convicted of “two strikes” under the state’s Three Strikes Law.

Gascón launched these new progressive policies in the midst of rising violent crime in Los Angeles. In 2020, the murder rate was up 25 percent and shootings were up 21 percent — much of the increase due to gang-related violence.  But do these reforms really work?  All we need to do is look to New York City which, under Mayor Bill DeBlasio, also took a softer on crime approach, including bail reform. In 2020, the number of murders rose 45 percent, shootings increased 97 percent, and the number of shooting victims nearly doubled.

Now Gascón is facing a revolt from his own prosecutors.  The Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which represents the county’s deputy district attorneys, is suing Gascón to block these changes.  Michelle Hanisee, president, Fox News’ David Asman[1] that Gascón  “turned our office into a second public defender’s office – he wants us to represent the defendants as well, so now the defendants are represented by the defense bar and by the prosecution, and there’s no one else to represent the victims or the public.”

Hanisee points out that their suit is “…a separation of powers issue.”  She offered a mini civics lesson:  The legislature is authorized to enact laws, not the district attorney. The judiciary is entitled to rule on the legality of those laws, not the district attorney.  The district attorney is an elected official who is bound to follow the law. So if Mr. Gascón doesn’t like the laws he has two legitimate avenues, he could petition the legislative branch to change the law or he can take up an appeal in court to ask the judiciary to rule these laws unconstitutional.” Instead, she says, “he is putting his personally held views above the decisions of the legislature and the judiciary.…”

Call it unconstitutional, progressivism, social engineering, or one-party rule, legal eagles or policy wonks like ourselves are in the business of examining judicial and governing philosophies.  Californians, however, instinctively know when they are being poorly served by their elected officials.  Whether it’s inconsistently applying lockdowns without any scientific evidence preventing businesses from opening, people from worshipping, or children from going to school; or new laws restricting drivers, journalists, and musicians from making a living, or repealing civil rights laws that protect young people from discrimination when applying to the college of their choice, Californians have shown that they can only be pushed so far.

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute

[1] Cavuto Live, Fox News, aired January 2, 2021.


Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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