GUEST COMMENTARY - Today, with only a few hours’ notice, District Attorney George Gascón canceled a meeting that his staff had scheduled a week ago with the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the request by the ADDA to reconsider his decision to dissolve the Victim Impact Program (VIP).
VIP is a division of specially trained attorneys who prosecute the most sensitive cases in the office, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, elder abuse, child abuse, hate crimes, sex crimes, and stalking. Gascón’s planned reorganization would reduce the number of experienced lawyers handling these cases.
“This decision by Gascón to gut this essential unit is rash, self-serving, and retaliatory,” said ADDA President Michele Hanisee. “It will make victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse less safe, and in many cases, put their lives in danger. But what do you expect from a guy who has never tried a case or had to help a traumatized crime victim navigate the court process.”
At a time when reported incidences of domestic violence and sexual abuse are at dangerously high levels, Gascón’s cuts will:
- Reduce the number of attorneys with the specialized training and experience needed to handle such cases;
- Increase caseloads for the already overworked attorneys assigned to prosecute cases involving sexual abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, and hate crimes;
- Shift responsibility for handling many of these cases to prosecutors who are not trained to handle them;
- Remove the most experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse prosecutors from courthouses across the county;
- Lead to predictably disastrous outcomes for the county’s most vulnerable victims.
These changes effectively transfer Deputy District Attorneys to give the appearance of making a change, but in fact, reduce the number of prosecutors that handle these delicate matters.
“No one outside of George Gascón’s insular and inexperienced executive team thinks this is a good idea,” said ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall. “This level of mismanagement and incompetence is typical of Gascón. His stubborn refusal to pause or rethink this petty power tantrum is arrogant, irresponsible, and a threat to public safety.”
In April 2022, managers in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office’s Victim Impact Program (“VIP”) sent George Gascón and his executive team a detailed, data-driven memo warning the administration in no uncertain terms that people would suffer and die if he didn’t flood those units with additional resources and personnel.
On February 15, 2023, the managers’ memo leaked to the media. Less than 24 hours later, Gascón dissolved the units and retaliated against many of the managers who wrote the memo. Gascón’s dangerous reorganization will take effect tomorrow.
(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.)