LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The union which represents Los Angeles County prosecutors filed a restraining order Wednesday which seeks to block the sweeping policy changes recently announced by newly-elected District Attorney George Gascon.
Just after being sworn in earlier this month, Gascon announced several drastic policy changes, including the elimination of cash bail for misdemeanor and felony offenses, as well as the elimination of some sentencing enhancements, such as gang enhancements that he argues undermine rehabilitation, exacerbates racial inequities and unnecessarily crowd jails and prisons.
He also said that his office would no longer seek the death penalty and would take a less aggressive approach on lower-level offenders.
After receiving significant pushback on the new policies from victims’ rights groups, Gascon changed course somewhat, saying that he would continue to seek sentencing enhancements in hate crimes, crimes against children and the elderly and other crimes that meet certain criteria.
Gascon’s changes were seemingly not enough for the Association of Deputy District Attorneys of L.A. County, which filed a restraining order Wednesday morning that seeks “a writ of mandate, declaratory relief and injunctive relief” against Gascon and the DA’s Office.
“While an elected District Attorney has wide discretion in determining what charges to pursue in an individual case, that discretion does not authorize him or her to violate the law or to direct attorneys representing the district attorney’s office to violate the law,” said Michele Hanisee, President of the ADDA, in a statement Wednesday.
A trio of legal experts from Northern California came out Tuesday against the union’s move, saying in a joint statement that they are “confident this attempt to obstruct the will of the voters will be struck down.”
The union’s “concern over striking enhancements is inconsistent with their decades-long silence when former district attorneys often dismissed enhancements and three-strikes allegations in the interests of justice,” said UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Stanford Law School professor David Mills and Michael Romano, director of Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project. “That the association now claims the practice to be unlawful is more reflective of their longstanding opposition to reform and the will of millions of Angelenos than it is the legality of D.A. Gascon’s directives. D.A. Gascon’s policies will enhance health and safety in Los Angeles and begin a much needed process to reduce epidemic levels of mass incarceration.”
The 66-year-old Gascon defeated two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey in an expensive and closely contested campaign.
Gascon, a retired Los Angeles police officer, served as both police chief and district attorney for San Francisco. Both appointments were made by current California governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
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