Lawsuit seeks to force Gascon to enforce state laws regarding charging prior "strike" convictions
Los Angeles, April 26, 2023 – The Association of Deputy District Attorneys ("ADDA") today thanked the victim advocates, legal experts, and community groups that have filed "friend of the court" briefs with the California Supreme Court supporting the organization's landmark lawsuit against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.
"On behalf of our members, we want to thank those who have filed briefs in support of our position: that no one – not even George Gascón – is above the law. We are humbled and grateful for their support." said ADDA President Michele Hanisee.
"This groundbreaking lawsuit will define the boundaries of the separation of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and whether that system of checks-and-balances is worth protecting. We think so, and it's a position that a state superior court and a panel of state appellate court judges have agreed. We hope the California Supreme Court follows suit when it decides this case in the weeks and months ahead," Hanisee added.
The lawsuit alleges that Gascón's directive not to charge prior "strike" convictions violates California law, which imposes a mandatory duty on prosecutors to plead and prove strike priors.
"These briefs echo and add to our defense of a fundamental, non-partisan American principle: no one person is above the law," said ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall. We are free to disagree with the law. We can – and should -- critique its shortcomings and inefficiencies. When it doesn't work, we can – and should – work like hell to change it. But no one person – no matter how high their office, how deep their pockets, or how inflated their ego – is above it. Not even George Gascón."
Below are some excerpts from each of the amicus briefs in support of ADDA.
Professors Paul G. Cassell, Margaret Garvin, and John C. Yoo.
"The District Attorney's refusal to enforce the Three Strikes Law not only violates the text of the California constitution and this Court's precedents, it also rejects California's implementation of the principle of the separation of powers."
"Like all other powers vested in the Executive branch by the California Constitution, prosecutorial discretion is not absolute. The form of discretion Gascón claims aggrandizes the traditional scope of the executive power under the California Constitution, subverts and encroaches upon the role of the Legislature, and ignores the will of the people."
"Gascón's theory of prosecutorial discretion proves too much. It would extend prosecutorial discretion beyond its traditional bounds and subsume the role of the Legislature and the will of the people in defining crimes."
Crime Survivors Resource Center, Justice for Murdered Children, and Barbara Jones
"Whether it is a Southern politician trying to preserve slavery, a conservative politician who opposes abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, a conservative rural sheriff who likes guns, a county that did not think COVID-19 was a serious health issue, or a progressive urban district attorney who does not want to punish dangerous serial criminal offenders, they are each subject to the rule of law. They must comply with the laws to which they are subject even if they do not like them and even if they conflict with their professed values."
"Ultimately, whether Three Strikes law is good or bad public policy is irrelevant to the issues presented in this case. The sole question is whether Gascón has the power himself to alter state law because he does not like it. He does not."
Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
"This case calls on the judicial branch to survey the line between the executive and legislative powers of the state. In theory, judgments about the wisdom of the competing policies should not matter in marking out this line. In the ebb and flow of political change, the sides could switch at any time. Even so, appellants have chosen to set forth as background information a sharply skewed portrait of both the history of the Three Strikes Law and the current state of research regarding public safety and sentence length."
"The District Attorney's claim that long sentences have a strong criminogenic effect, sufficient to outweigh the incapacitation benefit, is contradicted by the published research literature as a whole, not supported by it."
California District Attorney's Association
"Demonstrating a lack of understanding of the source of his authority, the District Attorney perversely turns the separation of powers doctrine on its head in an attempt to insulate his actions. He mischaracterizes the nature of "discretion" to apply to his capricious nullification of the law. He compels his subordinates to violate their own legal duties and ethical obligations. And he cloaks his actions in secrecy by failing to abide by a process that would put the impact of his decisions more squarely in the public eye."
"The District Attorney presents this Court with a twisted view of the separation of powers doctrine. Through his reasoning, a single county prosecutor may be empowered to ignore the legal constructs of the People, the Legislature, and the Judiciary, declaring which law will be followed in that prosecutor's county. Separation of powers provides checks on the branches of government, it does not serve to negate them."
About The ADDA
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent representing over 800 Deputy District Attorneys working for the County of Los Angeles.