Vail Daily letter: Requirements for the next district attorney
Vail, CO, Colorado
I wish to express my sincere thanks to everyone who voted on Nov. 1. Whether you voted for or against the district attorney term limit question, I thank you for voting. Ultimately, I was looking to have your voice heard on whether the position of the district attorney should have three terms. And that was done. Again, thank you.
As we go forward in choosing our next district attorney, there are some things we need to keep in mind. The position is not one to be chosen lightly. Along with law enforcement, the district attorney keeps us safe. A district attorney is not to seek a conviction at all costs, but rather to seek justice in all circumstances. So what qualifications should we look at when choosing our next DA?
When I first ran for DA seven years ago, I chose a campaign slogan of, “Experience. Leadership. Commitment.” That slogan was not some bit of campaign fluff that had no meaning. Rather, it encapsulated what I believed makes a good district attorney. After nine years of serving as your district attorney, I still believe those attributes are what make a good and effective DA.
We need our district attorney to have experience. They need to have experiences with the big cases and the small cases. We have two homicides pending in the district right now. In the nine years I have been your district attorney I have had two weeks where we have not had homicide charges pending.
The next DA needs to have the experience in a big case. And experience only as a defense attorney, although better than no experience, really does not transfer to prosecution. The roles are so very different.
A prosecutor’s job is to build the case and seek justice for the people. The defense attorney’s job is representing their client and their client’s wishes.
The job of the district attorney is also so much bigger than trying cases. A DA also has to have experience in managing a budget, managing people and showing compassion for those people who are at their most vulnerable.
We need to ask any candidate for district attorney not only what experience they have in prosecuting cases, but also how have they treated victims and what experience do they have in managing a budget and managing people.
We need our district attorney to have shown leadership. Since a good deal of a district attorney’s time is hiring and managing people, showing leadership is vital.
Whether it is in business or public service, the person newest to managing is never given the most responsibility. It just makes no sense for the assistant mailroom attendant to become the CEO.
And with prosecutors, there is the extra burden of prosecutors looking for a job wanting to know that you have been there, have tried the domestic violence case where the victim recants, have made mistakes in motions practice, and ultimately have gained convictions in a big case.
So we need to ask any candidate for district attorney what have they done that has shown leadership.
We need our district attorney to have commitment. Being district attorney is not an easy job. There are long hours and a lot of slings and arrows. And although the pay is better than when I first ran, it is still less than a decent private attorney can make.
A district attorney needs to have the commitment to do what is right: to follow the law and believe in helping people. We need to ask a candidate for district attorney if they have the commitment to serve the people of this district.
It is just under a year before we will choose our next district attorney and no candidate has announced yet, and probably won’t for a couple of months, but we need to start thinking about what sort of candidate we want as our next district attorney. And when candidates emerge we need to ask those hard questions of whether they have the experience, leadership and commitment to be our next district attorney.
District Attorney of the 5th Judicial District