Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon is being sued by his own staff prosecutors for defying state law by unilaterally deciding to ignore sentence enhancement rules under the Three Strikes Law, to stop seeking the death penalty, and to end cash bail.
“For decades, those who profit off incarceration have used their enormous political influence–cloaked in the false veil of safety–to scare the public and our elected officials into backing racist policies that created more victims, destroyed budgets, and shattered our moral compass. That lie and the harm it caused ends now.”
The case, filed on Dec. 30, 2020, with the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, is known as Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) for Los Angeles County v. Gascon.
ADDA asks the court to force Gascon to follow the law and restrain him and his office “from forcing compliance by this County’s Deputy District Attorneys ... with unlawful portions of recently-enacted Special Directives.”
ADDA officials explained the rationale behind the lawsuit.
“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,” Michele Hanisee, president of ADDA, said in a statement. The collective bargaining agent for prosecutors claims about 800 members.
“Los Angeles County prosecutors have been placed in an impossible position,” ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall added.
“Do we follow our legal and ethical responsibilities and risk getting disciplined, even fired, by our new boss? Or do we follow his policy directives and risk losing our California State Bar Cards and, by extension, our ability to practice law anywhere in the state? We’re asking a court to answer those questions.”
The lawsuit focuses on Gascon’s directives that ADDA says ignore or contradict California law.
The law also doubles the prison term for individuals convicted of any California felony who have two violent felony or serious felony priors. So-called second strikers are given a sentence whose duration is doubled.
Gascon ordered deputy district attorneys “to dismiss pending strike priors, special circumstance enhancements, gang enhancements, firearm allegations, and certain other ‘felony prior’ enhancements.” His directives prohibited the filing of strike prior enhancements in new cases.
The court ordered Gascon to respond to the lawsuit by Jan. 15, after which ADDA must reply by Jan. 26. A hearing is scheduled in the court’s Department 85 on Feb. 2.
Gascon’s office didn't immediately respond over the weekend to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
The measure, the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative, also known as Proposition 57, was passed by state voters in 2016 with a vote of 64.5 percent in favor.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted in the court’s opinion that the proposition doesn’t mandate that parole necessarily be granted to prisoners.
“The evaluation of an inmate’s suitability for parole and the processes involved in conducting that evaluation remain squarely within the purview of the Department and the Board of Parole Hearings,” she wrote.