That makes a lot of sense for a District Attorney's office, but it's not every job where negotiating on behalf of the state is part of the employment description. I'm not sure the same strictures need apply to public defenders, who hold no similar leverage with which to extract contributions.
to eliminate influence peddling at the Frank Crowley criminal courthouse downtown.
Watkins said that before he was DA, he remembers seeing defense attorneys negotiating plea deals with prosecutors who were judge candidates and then handing them envelopes with campaign contributions.
"For our system to work better overall, it's a policy that needs to be in place throughout the court system," Watkins said.
There's a risk that a countywide "resign to run" policy could really just be cover for an incumbent protection plan, since some of the most qualified people to lead the system at any given time may already be working in it. For example, "Sheriff Lupe Valdez said she would support a resign-to-run policy for her department," reported Krause. "In 2008, one of her deputies ran against her." I don't see any similar conflict for Sheriff's deputies running for office as I do assistant district attorneys. Indeed, where are we going to find law enforcement leaders to elect if they must leave law enforcement to run for Sheriff?
Incumbent protection - not preventing conflicts of interest - is why the public defender office is considering the change:
IMO that's not a legitimate reason to keep people from running for office. Watkins' concerns about prosecutors negotiating on behalf of the state while receiving contributions from the lawyer on the other side of table probably are.
A key reason to enact a resign-to-run policy, [chief public defender Lynn] Richardson said, is to keep incumbent judges happy.
She said at least one judge has indicated that she will not use any public defenders in her courtroom unless the policy is enacted.
"Several judges have complained about the lack of trust for the office because we have so many attorneys running against them, and one judge has threatened to stop using the office as a result," Richardson e-mailed a county official.
Judge Angela King of County Criminal Court No. 6 is facing challenges from two assistant public defenders, neither of whom work in her court.
"You expressed to me that this has caused distrust of the office and has affected your ability to work with us," Richardson wrote in an e-mail to King. "You have indicated to me that having public defenders campaign against you would cause you to be distrustful of any assistant public defender assigned to your court."
Richardson said King confirmed that she would reconsider using public defenders if the resign-to-run policy is enacted. King didn't respond to a call seeking comment.
Other judges also are miffed about having challengers from the public defender's office.
Assuming we're going to keep electing judges, Sheriffs and constables, what do you think? Should prosecutors or public defenders be required to resign to run? How about law enforcement officers? Where do you draw the line?
RELATED: See details of the proposed resign to run policy.