Events Galore in April!

PK has been busy meeting people all over the county!  To see where PKforDA will be next, check out his FaceBook page. Here are a few highlights from the last few weeks:

Oakdale Rodeo Parade

Love Modesto

Meet and Greet at Memo’s

Candidates Forum in Patterson

Modesto Bee Editorial Board Meeting with Candidates for District Attorney

Hughson Fruit and Nut Festival

CASA of Stanislaus County

The Modesto Bee Endorsement!

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