Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Team PK spent the morning at the Salvation Army’s Kettle Run in Turlock, and had a fantastic time! The rain held off for all of the runners, who turned out despite the chilly winds.

He met with another local candidate, Shannon Sanford, and admired the enthusiasm of the athletes. Congratulations to the winners!

Don’t worry if you missed this opportunity to chat with Patrick, he’ll be in your area soon!

Why so quiet?

Ok, so it’s been a while since we’ve updated the campaign page. That’s not because we haven’t had much going on. It’s just that most of our activity has moved to our Facebook page, since it’s much easier for all of you to interact with us there. We’ll still be posting things here, but your best bet for up-to-date campaign info is to follow us on Facebook. Or Twitter. We can’t forget the Twitter!

The Women’s March – Coming Together for a Better, Safer, and More Equal Society

On January 20th, 2018, the second annual Women’s March was held across the U.S. I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Modesto March, and the PKforDA team came out in force. It was an incredible experience!

Approximately 1,500 people participated in the March, with every age, race, gender, and even political persuation (not to mention several species!) represented. The sight of over a thousand marchers walking up to the rally in unison was deeply moving, something that I will never forget.

  

At the rally, I had the opportunity to speak to dozens of marchers about my campaign, and to listen to their requests, ideas, and concerns . With this much diversity of marchers, there was also a great deal of diversity of opinion! But one thing was consistent. The voters I spoke to agreed that we need a change at the District Attorney’s office, and were generously willing to hear my message and vision. I was humbled by your stories, and will do my best to honor your faith and desire for change.

  

Events like the March make it clear. Our community may be facing many challenges, but we can overcome any of them if we are united and work together. That’s what our campaign is about, after all. Making Stanislaus County safer, together.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied (for Everyone)

Today’s Modesto Bee leads with a powerful article on the incredible delays to justice in our county. Our county has an incredible backlog of criminal cases, with over 100 murder suspects sitting in jail awaiting trial, some for over ten years. Not only is this very expensive (we spend over $11,000 per day housing just these defendants), but the result is a delay in justice for everyone involved – not just the defendants, but also the victims’ families, the law enforcement officers who investigated the case, and the community at large.

As the Bee notes, things weren’t always this way. The incredible growth in our backlog correlates to two events – a change in the way that our court handles cases and the election of Birgit Fladager as our District Attorney. There are many arguments to be had about the best way for a court to handle cases, and there are other counties that made the same change but somehow see a similar increase in delays. But we have one thing that those counties don’t – Birgit Fladager.

I am quoted throughout the article, and I stand by my statements, with one small clarification (see below). As I told the Bee, I believe that our delays are the result of poor policies and management at the District Attorneys office. Problems with evidence handling and discovery have allowed defense attorneys to ask for repeated continuances (a valid and popular defense strategy), with little to no push back from overworked Deputy District Attorneys (DDAs for short) whose case loads exceed those of comparable counties.

The result is an exodus of experienced DDAs – we replaced 17 out of 47 this past year alone, and less than 10 DDAs  have been there for the duration of Birgit’s tenure. This, in turn, leads to less experienced DDAs handling more difficult cases, which they need more time to prepare for, increasing their workload, and creating a vicious cycle that is playing out before us. At the end of the day, our county pays the price, both financially and through reduced safety, peace of mind, and access to justice.

Now is the time for change. If elected, I will work collaboratively with the courts, the law enforcement community, and the rest of the criminal justice system (yes, including the defense bar) to reduce this backlog and get us back to a system of justice that is fair, efficient, and effective. I will do this through a combination of technology (the proposed-and-allegedly-soon-to-be-implemented digital discovery system is a start, but not nearly enough), as well as modern metrics-based management of both cases and the dedicated and hard-working members of the District Attorney’s office.

Stanislaus County deserves, and can have, a fair, efficient, and effective criminal justice system. All it needs is good leadership and capable management. Please help me bring that to our community, so that we can all make our county safer, together.

How can you help? I’m glad you asked! For starters, you can visit our contributions page and contribute financially to our campaign. Every bit helps – you would be amazed at how important your $20, $50, or $100 contribution can be.  Next, we have great opportunities for volunteers to help us with our campaign. If you are excited about the opportunity to help make our county safer, please email us at volunteer@pkforda.com and we’ll get you going! Finally, we need people to get the word out about what we’re doing. You can do that by liking our Facebook page, sharing our post, or just talking to your friends, family, and colleagues about why you think I should be your next District Attorney. No matter how you help, thank you, and I look forward to serving you, and our entire county.

-Patrick

As for that clarification: There’s a quote in the article that suggests that I or other attorneys might ask for delays relating to discovery when that discovery has already been handed over. I have not, and will never, do something along those lines, and have never seen another defense attorney do it either. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has tried it, but it’s unethical, improper, and frankly dumb to do it. As attorneys, our credibility to the court is everything, and no attorney, no matter who they are or how zealously they represent their client can excuse misrepresenting the truth to the court. My quote was intended to highlight that the District Attorney’s office has not been able to verify whether they have handed evidence over to the defense- I have had the same evidence given to me multiple times in a case, and have had DDAs ask me whether certain evidence had been given to me, because they didn’t know.

The DA and ICE – Part 1 (A summary)

This week was filled with news about the relationship between the District Attorney’s office (and law enforcement generally) and federal immigration agents.

First, on Wednesday, a man was arrested by ICE agents in the courthouse after they were tipped off to his presence by a Deputy District Attorney (“DDA” for short). The defendant had asked the court to have his DUI case dismissed because the DA’s office hadn’t pressed forward with it in over three years, and unfortunately common situation in our county. Looking at court records, I was surprised to find that there are over 2,500 DUI cases that have been open for over 2 years in our county, and that are potentially subject to being dismissed the same way!

By Friday, both Birgit and John issued statements supporting the current policy of having DDAs call ICE to check on people’s immigration status while investigating cases, and expressed no concern about the implications of having people arrested in the courthouse, ahead of their hearings. I made my position clear – the District Attorney’s office has to follow the law, and California law doesn’t allow this sort of behavior. If Californians want their DA’s to call ICE, they should talk to their legislators about changing the law. But the DA can’t ignore the law that exists today.

Then, late on Friday, the legislature passed SB 54, a bill that significantly restricts law enforcement’s ability to communicate and work with federal law enforcement agents. If Governor Brown signs the bill (as he is expected to do), all California law enforcement agencies, including the District Attorney’s office, will face sharp restrictions on their ability to respond to ICE’s questions, and will be effectively barred from checking the immigration status of nearly all suspects and defendants.

While there is certainly room for debate about whether the bill goes too far (as some people believe) or not far enough (as others argue), that is an argument for the legislature. A District Attorney’s job is to enforce the law as it exists, with some discretion allowed as to where to focus limited resources. Over the coming days, I will be posting a series of posts that explain why I think the current policy embraced by Birgit and John is wrong, and what I would propose instead.

-Patrick

And Then There Were Three

The Bee wrote about John’s entry to the race this afternoon:
You’ve already seen Patrick’s statement on John’s entry, (you can read it again here:), but we should point out what John and Birgit say about one another. John correctly points out that Birgit’s leadership has led to dramatic turnover at the office, with one-third of the attorneys there having less than one year of experience.
 
Think about that. One in three D.A.’s trying cases in Stanislaus County have been an attorney for less than a year. Why? Because the turnover is so bad that the office can’t keep people who have a chance of escaping to another county. Birgit claims this is entirely due to pay, but these D.A.’s aren’t exactly fleeing to richer counties. The issue, as John (who has been training a lot of these younger lawyers, although he hasn’t had any experience managing them) knows. The work environment is so toxic that attorneys will do anything to get out, including giving up on their dream of being a prosecutor. The end result is a less experienced, less capable prosecutorial team, which means less convictions and more criminals out on the street, with lots of wasted tax dollars along the way.
 
In attacking John, Birgit correctly points out that he has never been seen in a managerial role. Even though John is one of the longest-serving prosecutors in the office, he has never had the experience of managing a team, much less a department. John has definitely racked up some big wins in court, but he now wants to leave that experience behind, costing our county another strong litigator and putting someone without management experience in charge of one of our most important agencies. That didn’t work out well when Birgit was elected, which led to our current problem. We shouldn’t do it again.
 
Our District Attorney’s office needs to change its internal culture, and to become a place that not only retains its attorney, but that gives them the tools to succeed in court. The agency needs a strong, proven leader who can build bridges, not the survivor of an internal civil war. As an outsider with proven management experience, Patrick can bridge both the internal divides that have led John to run against his once-favored boss, and the external breaks between the District Attorney’s office and the rest of the criminal justice community. At the same time, Patrick can restore good financial management and bring much-needed transparency to the finances and operations of the office.
 
This is not a time for more of the same. It’s time that we all joined in and made our county safer, together.

Contributions are open!

We’re happy to announce that our shiny new contributions page is live! The miracles of modern technology mean that you can participate in the campaign from the comfort of your home, without needing to write a check or go digging for a big fistful of dollars. Instead, you can just head over to our quick and easy online form, fill in a bit of information, and let our good friends at PayPal take care of the hassle, all from the comfort of your screen!

So what are you waiting for? Click on the “Contribute” link at the top of your screen or head directly over to pkforda.com/contribute, and show your support for Stanislaus County’s next District Attorney!