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

Welcome, Bee Readers!

We’re seeing a lot of new traffic to both this site and our Facebook page after Ken Carlson’s great article announcing Patrick’s candidacy. Welcome, everyone!

As you can see in the article, Ms. Fladager is not particularly happy to have a challenger, and claims that I don’t know much about how her office runs. But she still manages to concede that her office has problems, and seems to agree that my proposed solutions are the right ones, claiming that the office is in the process of rolling out a digital system that allows electronic discovery to criminal defense attorneys.

 

As a local criminal defense attorney with many friends in the DA’s office, I can say with confidence that her description of this system is… overstated, to say the least. I have never received a single piece of discovery electronically from a Stanislaus County DA, unless you count DVD copies of video recordings. There is no central system for attorneys on either side to electronically access the evidence in a case, and I have repeatedly had situations where the DA handling a case wasn’t sure whether evidence had been given over or not. Even if Ms. Fladager’s dream system is really being built, why did it take her eight years of “leadership” to recognize that there is a problem?

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the practice of criminal defense law in Stanislaus County has known for years that there are serious, endemic issues with efficiency and transparency in that office. It is time for someone to come in and fix these problems from the ground-up, someone who isn’t tied to years of mismanagement and mistakes.

Note, also, Ms. Fladager’s admission that her office has been losing attorneys left and right. Of course, she blames this on attorneys leaving for better paying jobs in bigger counties, but that’s provably not true. Later in the campaign, we’ll be providing verifiable data about where attorneys have gone after leaving our District Attorney’s office, which should include income comparisons for those who remained in public service. Stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, welcome, and thank you for your interest in my campaign. We have a very long road ahead of us, and Patrick is looking forward to engaging personally with as many of you as possible. If you would like to have Patrick come to your church, social group, car club, quinceanera, or other group so that he can hear from directly you about what matters most to you and your loved ones in this race, please send him a message on our Facebook page, and we’ll make it happen!

Patrick Got A Mention In Jeff Jardine’s Column

Our first official recognition by the local media happened! Jeff Jardine’s column on the outcome of the Frank Carson case had the following little blurb:

But losing such a case and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars certainly would be ammunition for someone to oppose Fladager is 2018, should she choose to seek a fourth term. Carson will be arraigned April 24 and could refuse to waive time, meaning the case could go to trial within 60 days and possibly be over in time to affect the outcome of an election.

One candidate, Modesto criminal defense attorney Patrick Kolasinski, filed March 31 to run for DA, citing the department’s inefficient management along with the problems it has had with discovery – as has been a problem in the Carson case – and poor morale.

Politicians, including DAs, are elected officials who run on their records to get re-elected. The decisions they make today can be gold mines for their opponents tomorrow.

Well, at least the online version of the article had that quote. Jeff didn’t know about the campaign when he wrote the original version, so those who read the hard copy of the paper missed out on the announcement. But Jeff was kind enough to correct the oversight when it was pointed out to him, so readers of the digital version got the full story!

It’s Official! The 2018 District Attorney Race is on.

Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to visit us. I am Patrick Kolasinski, and if you live, work, or play in Stanislaus County, I want to be your next District Attorney. We have a long ways to go before the June 2018 election, but I know that, together, we can win this race and bring an era of accountability, transparency, and security to Stanislaus County!

Looking Forward

In the coming days, weeks and months, this site will be filled with information about my campaign, my platform, and all sorts of other fun stuff. For now, thank you for your patience, and please pardon our dust. Also, while you’re here, please take a moment to sign up to be a part of our campaign by completing our super-quick Campaign Sign-Up Form.