The True Role of the District Attorney.

AuthorO'Keefe, Michael D.

There has been more attention paid to district attorney elections across the country than in years past as social justice candidates supported and funded by George Soros, a funder of left-wing causes, and the American Civil Liberties Union are urged to seek election to these positions. One of the selling points in pushing the 'social justice district attorney' agenda is how important the district attorney is in the community and that the general population is unaware of that fact. That is usually accompanied by apocryphal claims of people being warehoused in prison for small amounts of drugs.

The social justice candidate with little or no experience makes grand pronouncements, and as here in Boston, proclaims that entire categories of crime will no longer be prosecuted. This is done, it's claimed, to redress inequities in the demographics of: who is in jail or prison.

First, district attorneys do not make laws, that is the job of the legislature. It is true and appropriate that district attorneys have the power of nolle prosequi, that is to end a prosecution in the interests of justice, and district attorneys have the authority to not commence a prosecution for the same reason. However, those decisions are made based on the facts and circumstances of an individual case. The district attorney does not have the power to nullify an entire class of criminal conduct. That is the sole prerogative of our legislature whose members are elected by the citizens to make the laws under which the citizen lives. The idea that we should exempt groups of people from having to obey the law is an insult to them and a particularly destructive form of pandering because it suggests that these people are lesser beings than those we expect to obey the law.

A second flaw in this reasoning is the suggestion that the criminal justice system in general, and district attorneys in particular, are somehow to blame for demographic inequities in the incarcerated population. This ignores the reality that the criminal justice system is reactive not proactive. It deals with those who are brought to it. And those who are brought to it are alleged to have committed a crime.

The social determinants that lead to the commission of crime are complex, yet the criminal justice system becomes an easy target. Far easier to blame than the disintegration of the family, a lack of respect for discipline and education and the glorification in some communities of a culture that celebrates...

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