New Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón’s effort to push through sweeping criminal justice reforms have sparked an unprecented revolt. Rank-and-file Los Angeles prosecutors have sought to block their new boss in court and district attorneys elsewhere in California have said they will not share cases with him, reports Politico. Within weeks of taking office, Gascón instructed prosecutors to stop seeking the death penalty and trying juveniles as adults. He ordered a halt to most cash bail requests and banned prosecutors from appearing at parole hearings. Most controversially, he barred prosecutors from seeking various sentencing enhancements. His decisions have divided California’s prosecutors: detractors see dangerous and potentially illegal overreach, while his supporters see a leader who is following through.
The widening battle offers a high-profile microcosm for larger tensions roiling law enforcement in California and around the country. Prosecutors tasked with carrying out Gascón’s orders in Los Angeles courtrooms have fought back. Their association has gone to court to argue Gascón’s directives violate the law. The California District Attorneys Association has publicly backed their challenge. District attorneys representing Fresno and Sacramento have said they will not share jurisdiction on any cases with Gascón. Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said in an interview that Gascón was imperiling people beyond Los Angeles areas because crime ripples from the enormous county to other areas of the state. Gascón’s allies see a different risk: the law enforcement establishment closing ranks to defy an elected prosecutor’s ability to carry out the will of voters. Dozens of prosecutor allies from around the country underscored those stakes in an amicus brief backing Gascón’s authority, noting “the issues this case raises have national significance.”