Dianne Lugo, Staff

A little over three weeks after he was sworn in, Los Angeles’ newest District Attorney is receiving strong pushback on the sweeping new changes he announced on his first day in office. The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), the union that represents nearly 1,000 Los Angeles County prosecutors, filed a lawsuit against District Attorney George Gascon on Wednesday, Dec. 30, saying that the new D.A’s directives that prohibited sentence enhancement,  including enhancements for prior strikes, defy state law. 

“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,” ADDA President Michele Hanisee said.

The ADDA hopes that a judge will grant an injunction that would label the orders “invalid and illegal.” They are also hoping the injunction would temporarily bar Gascon and his administration from enforcing the directives. 

The union argues that under California’s three strike law and other California laws, prosecutors are obligated to seek longer sentences for defendants with previous convictions. Prosecutors are obligated to evaluate each case on its own, not apply a blanket policy to all criminal filings, they say. 

ADDA’s lawyer Eric M. George argued that the dramatic changes made by Gascon have forced prosecutors to violate their oaths of office and ethical duties. 

“Los Angeles County prosecutors have been placed in an impossible position. 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,” said ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall.

Gascon acknowledged the lawsuit but did not add any comment.

 

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