DA Gascon Can’t Ignore California’s ‘Three Strikes’ Law, Appeals Court Says – Daily Breeze
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón cannot bar prosecutors from seeking sentence enhancements for defendants under the state’s ‘three strikes’ law, the Court has ruled. call from the second district of California on Thursday, June 2.
Court opinion upholds 2021 preliminary injunction issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, who ruled that Gascón’s three-shot highlight ban was illegal and violated the rights of prosecutors.
“The district attorney is overstating his authority,” the appeals court said, concurring with the lower court’s decision. “He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute discretion and without control.”
Still, the Constitution and the state Supreme Court give district attorneys sole authority to determine who to indict, what charges to file and prosecute, and what sentence to seek, the appeals court said.
“This power cannot be taken away from the district attorney by the legislature, the judiciary, or the initiative of the voters without amending the Constitution of California,” the court said.
Gascón apparently seized on that statement to declare the decision a victory for his office.
“Today’s decision upholds the district attorney’s discretion and authority as an elected constitutional officer,” the district attorney’s office said in an email. “The court confirmed its ability to pursue its political goals in the advancement of justice.”
California’s three-strike law was enacted by voters in 1994 to add prison terms to the sentences of previously convicted felons. The law requires that defendants convicted of any crime, with two or more prior felony strikes, be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of 25 years to life. The law also doubles prison terms for second attackers.
The injunction follows a lawsuit filed by the Association of Assistant District Attorneys, which argued that a series of controversial directives issued by Gascón immediately after he took office are illegal and violate prosecutors’ discretion. .
Gascón appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that the ADDA lacked standing to challenge the guidelines.
However, the appeals court disagreed, noting that the ADDA represents about 800 prosecutors and is the union’s certified bargaining unit.
“On the issue of standing, we find that ADDA has association status to seek relief on behalf of its members,” the court said. “On the merits, we conclude that voters and the legislature have created an obligation … that compels prosecutors to plead prior convictions for serious or violent crimes in order to ensure that the alternative sentencing system created by the three strikes law works. applies to repeat offenders.”
Eric Siddall, ADDA vice president, said the appeals court’s decision validates the union’s argument that Gascón’s general guidelines constitute an abuse of power.
“Today, the Court gave a lesson in civics to George Gascón. He must obey the law,” he said. “He must respect the separation of powers. His power is not absolute. The ADDA wishes that we did not need to seek judicial intervention to affirm these basic principles of our government, but our hand has been forced by the illegal actions taken by Mr. Gascón. So while today represents a great day for the rule of law, it is a stain on Gascón’s legacy.
The ADDA has been at odds with Gascón since 2019, when he began his election campaign, and continued after his election a year later, amid promises of sweeping social justice reforms.
Just one more half a dozen prosecutors filed lawsuits alleging they were retaliated against and demoted for refusing to enforce Gascón’s policies.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a candidate for California attorney general, led efforts to persuade prosecutors across the state to file a brief in support of the ADDA lawsuit.
“I urged the California District Attorneys Association to intervene in the lawsuit brought by the Los Angeles Assistant Attorneys Association because George Gascon’s actions were clearly illegal and designed to undermine the rule of law,” he said. she said in an email.
“Allowing his illegal practices to continue would have devastating consequences for crime victims and public safety in Los Angeles and beyond. The citizens of Los Angeles deserve to have a district attorney who will uphold the law; not one who seeks to dismantle and destroy public safety.