Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Sierra Club

The CDAA Scandal

California District Attorneys Association, Sacramento California Office
California District Attorneys Association, Sacramento Office

This year, the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) scandal has been under media scrutiny for shady budget dealings under the leadership of Alameda County’s own DA – Nancy O’Malley.

O’Malley was the most recent past president and had leadership roles in the CDAA for the last decade. Recent news reports from the San Francisco Chronicle and Davis Vanguard have shown that the CDAA mismanaged more than 3 million dollars. The CDAA improperly shifted the money toward lobbying and advocacy efforts against progressive criminal justice reforms. The intended purpose was upholding environmental and workplace safety protections. 

The Sierra Club California, NextGen California, and the California League of Conservation Voters (to just name a few) have called the CDAA’s actions a “dereliction of public duty.” San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Salazer has called upon the entire CDAA Board – including DA O’Malley – to resign immediately. The California Attorney General is investigating, based in part on the request of the new executive leader of the CDAA.

This mismanagement hurts smaller and rural counties, where DA’s lack the resources to take on large corporations. In the wake of the CDAA scandal, there are state-wide calls from organizations and leaders to have Counties sever ties with the CDAA. 

The CDAA’s Problematic Record

The work of the CDAA has been troubling for at least a decade. As the State has been passing sweeping reforms in criminal justice through legislation, the CDAA has worked behind the scenes to fight reforms and instead, used its budget to push for harsher crime laws.

The CDAA actively worked to oppose needed modifications to three strikes laws. They poured money and muscle in the election to stop Prop 47 in 2014 which reduced penalties for most drug possession cases and low-level thefts. In 2016, they opposed Prop 57 which shortened prison time for nonviolent offenders and restricted the prosecution of juveniles as adults.

As reported in 2020 in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco County DA Chesa Boudin said:

“Law enforcement organizations have been advocating for policies and guided by philosophies that really haven’t changed in 40 years. They don’t rely on data or empirical evidence about what makes us safer.”

In fact, under DA O’Malley’s leadership – for the first time in CDAA’s history – a central California County DA withdrew from the association and called out the organization for working against statewide criminal justice reforms. Last month, in an op-ed in the Orange County Register, bar leaders penned an article titled – “It’s time for the DA associations to stop standing in the way of reform.” 

A Commitment to Change

Even before the CDAA scandal broke, four sitting DA’s created a new prosecutor’s association in California to counter the more conservative values of the CDAA. They join progressive prosecutors across the country who have separated themselves from the oppressive policies of the past. National organizations such as Fair and Just Prosecution are training new prosecutors and providing them with the tools to address the harms of past practices. 

And in a plea for sweeping reforms, Congresswoman Cori Bush (D. Mo.) has been asking voters across the country to bring change to their community by electing new DAs who uphold the values of equity and reform. 

I stand ready to uphold the values of equity, reform and compassion. These values have been missing from the Alameda County criminal justice system for more than a decade. I stand for embracing the reforms that Alameda County voters and the State legislature have passed over the last ten years. As a civil rights lawyer for 30 years in this community, I understand the imperative of constitutional policing and prosecutorial independence.

When elected to be the District Attorney of Alameda County in June 2022, I commit to take aggressive steps to restore public trust in our criminal justice system, ensure public safety, end mass incarceration and root out racial, socioeconomic and gender disparities within Alameda County’s criminal justice system. We deserve nothing less than that kind of leadership. Please go to pamelaprice4da.com to check out my full platform and make a donation.

Only 16 Votes

Credit: Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

Tiffany Caban’s Election – Part 1

Tiffany Caban is losing her election to Queens District Attorney by only 16 votes. Only 16 votes could decide the race. The criminal justice system in Queens impacts 2.4 million people. The race highlights the dangers of “provisional ballots” and the power of absentee ballots.

Election officials initially tossed out an estimated 2,500 provisional ballots. Some people registered too late to vote in the primary election. Others moved and did not re-register in time. Some voters forgot to sign and swear they were registered Democrats. On the flip side, usually the most reliable and conservative voters cast absentee ballots. Absentee voters vote early and those votes usually decide the race. That conventional wisdom may prove true in Queens.

What’s At Stake in Queens

Tiffany Caban’s race for District Attorney has captured the attention of the nation. Her story, in case you missed it, is an original American story. She’s young, a mere 31 years old, of Puerto Rican descent, a former Public Defender and the first in her family to graduate from college. Bringing all of her real life and world experience, she put together a broad coalition of progressives, formerly incarcerated folks, sex workers and undocumented immigrants.

New York based Working Families Party, Real Justice PAC, Color of Change, Our Revolution and Democrats for Socialist America (DSA) also supported Tiffany. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krashner, Singer John Legend, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former NY gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and the New York Times newspaper all endorsed Tiffany.

Only 1 major labor union endorsed Tiffany Caban.

According to the New York Times, the Queens District Attorney’s office is woefully out of step with the community it serves. The office features high racial disparities in prosecutions and routine violations of the right to counsel. It has no dedicated unit to address wrongful convictions and no oversight of abusive landlords.

Who is Melinda Katz?

Melinda Katz, Tiffany’s opponent, is an established player in New York politics. Melinda has been the Queens Borough President for 6 years. She will be termed out when her term expires in 2021. She is running for her 6th elected office in 25 years. In her long political career she has not shown any interest in criminal justice reform. She has not led any challenges to mass incarceration in New York.

In 1995, Melinda voted as a member of the New York State Assembly to reinstate the death penalty. On the City Council, she voted to increase penalties for low-level offenses and create a new category of crime (gang recruitment). She also favors increased police surveillance in city schools. Every elected member of Congress from New York except one, and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed Melinda.

Not surprising, big labor unions like SEIU, Teamsters, Firefighters and the building trades all support Melinda Katz. Melinda has no courtroom experience even though she is a lawyer. Her last real gig was as a lobbyist for real estate clients at Greenberg Taurig. The firm has a scandalous history, including a$7.6 million fine in 2006 levied by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to settle allegations that the firm helped cover up a bank’s financial misconduct. Greenberg is also Rudy Giuliani, former NY mayor and current Trump surrogate’s old law firm.

The Democratic Party Favorite

Here’s how one local writer described Melinda’s ties to the Queens Democratic Party:

Katz has also cemented her ties to the Queens Democratic Party, which is often criticized as one of the last bastions of calcified political power in the city. The Party protects and promotes its own and, in any race, brings to bear a large cadre of local, state, and national elected officials that originated from its ranks or owe it some allegiance, as well as the allies of those officials, other local party officials like members of the state committee, political club members, and others.

The Queens Democratic Party was previously headed by Congressional representative-turned-lobbyist Joe Crowley, who lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has been fundraising for Katz.”

According to one commentator, Melinda Katz ran on the traditional campaign of fear and racism. As she notes, “Law-and-order feminists have long used the idea of professional white women’s safety and reputation against young women activists of color.” Yet, she’s ahead by only 16 votes.

The Wrong Side of History

In August 2018, Shaun King lamented the absence of the Democratic Party in the fight for criminal justice reform. He asked “Does the Democratic Party really care about black people or do they just want our votes?”

The reality, reflected in the Queens DA race, is that the Democratic Party is very much present. On the wrong side of history. This was obvious in the 2018 Alameda County District Attorney race. According to the local Democratic Party Chair, Robin Torello, incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley “fights for our Democratic values of justice, equality and civil rights everyday.”

Credit: Pamela Price for District Attorney 2018

Every one of O’Malley’s answers are inconsistent with the California Democratic Party platform. Nonetheless, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, the Sierra Club and Senator Kamala Harris all endorsed O’Malley. After that, less than 100 days after winning re-election with financial and logistical support from the Democratic party machine, O’Malley endorsed the anti-choice Republican candidate for State Assembly over a Democrat. Fortunately, the Republican lost her seat.

Only 16 Votes

I pray that Tiffany Caban can get at least 17 more votes. Still, the hard lesson for progressives is that we have to “flip” the party. We have a chance to do just that in Alameda County in March 2020. If you are not a registered Democrat, you must re-register and do it early.

One estimate is that a million independent voters (registered as “no party preference”) in California risk not being able to vote for president or local Democratic party representatives in the March primary. In other words, independents who want to change the status quo in March 2020 best re-register to vote as a Democrat. You can change it back later.

In California, the drop dead date to re-register to vote by mail in the primary is January 15, 2020. So, you can only vote by mail for local Democratic party officials if you are a registered Democrat by January 15, 2020. If you want to vote in person, the final date to re-register to get a Democratic ballot is February 17, 2020.

Across the country, we see this is where “the petal meets the metal.” We really need everyone to “#DEM-ENTER” ASAP.

If you can please help Tiffany pay for the recount in the Queens DA race, go to her webpage at cabanforqueens.com and make a contribution. Tiffany is a corporate-free candidate.

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