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Prosecutor candidates weigh in on the issues
(Editor’s Note: Each of the four candidates for Kitsap County Prosecutor were asked to submit a brief biography and answer four questions. Those questions were:
1) Prosecutors are some of the most powerful elected officials in Washington state. Why should Kitsap County voters trust you with this office?
2) What will your philosophy be regarding charging decisions and the plea-bargaining process in criminal cases?
3) A good deal of a prosecutor’s attention is consumed by civil matters. What sets you apart as the best candidate in this particular arena?
4) What is the single biggest issue in this race and why are you the best candidate to deal with that issue?)
Veteran: U.S. Coast Guard, E-5 on discharge. Undergraduate degree: criminal justice studies, UW. University of Oregon School of Law. Internships: the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lane County, Oregon, Public Defender’s Office. I began my career in the prosecutor’s office in 1983, spent 10 years in private practice with the Shiers Firm in Port Orchard: criminal defense, civil litigation, environmental law, and commercial transactions. I took office as Prosecutor on Jan. 1, 1995.
1) There is important work to be done, vital to public safety, and I’m the most qualified candidate. By any measure, I’ve done the job well. We follow published guidelines and report our performance. My office is known for its performance and service. I’m endorsed by all local law enforcement leaders, the Governor and the Attorney General. I received the Kitsap County Bar Association’s Professionalism Award and hold the highest peer-review rating a lawyer can have: AV.
2) Please see our Charging and Disposition Standards and Guidelines. www.kitsapgov.com/pros. In short: “It is the policy of the Office of the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney to charge the crime or crimes that accurately reflect the defendant’s criminal conduct, taking into account reasonably foreseeable defenses, and for which we expect to be able to produce at trial proof beyond a reasonable doubt....The defendant will be expected to plead guilty to the initial Complaint ... or go to trial.”
3) When I took office, Kitsap County spent an alarming amount fees for private lawyers. We have now reached the point where we can handle almost any legal problem with Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutors. In 2013, the operations of our Civil Division cost $1,688,355. The cost ofthat service at private-practice rates is, conservatively, $5,133,796: a savings of $3,445,441. Our reputation is such that other counties and public agencies ask us for representation in civil matters.
4) Public safety in our community is enhanced by strong partnerships among the responsible people and organizations. The Sheriff, Police Chiefs, Tribal, and federal law enforcement work together. We support all their operations and share leadership of the system. These partnerships have allowed us to meet challenges—like opiate addiction, sexual exploitation, and mental illness progressively and effectively. We need to maintain our partnerships, and my record shows I am the best candidate to do that.
After graduating from UW Law School, I spent six years as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County. I went on to serve as Director of the Government Affairs Section at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, as a Senior Policy Analyst under two Seattle Mayors and as the Compliance Facilitator for the Seattle Police Department. I also served two terms on the Bainbridge City Council.
1) I’ve devoted my 20-year legal career exclusively to public safety and good government, and I have a proven track record of adhering to high ethical standards even in the most challenging situations. As a result, I have been endorsed by a wide range of elected and appointed officials and professionals that I have personally worked with as an attorney, advisor and analyst, as well as by citizens who have followed my public service career.
2) A charging decision should be based upon two factors: the facts and the law. Unlike the current prosecutor, I would never file reduced charges in order to save money. Plea negotiations should be based upon the strength of the case. If new evidence comes to light after a charging decision is made, a prosecutor might consider offering a reduced charge. Otherwise a defendant should be expected to plead guilty as charged or go to trial.
3) I am the only candidate for Prosecutor who has hands on municipal law experience working for a governmental entity. For two and a half years I was the Director of the Government Affairs Section at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, supervising a team of attorneys handling public disclosure issues, tax and collections, and constitutional law matters. We advised elected officials and City departments on a wide variety of civil matters and assisted in preparing legislation.
4) The Prosecutor’s Office needs a leader who can restore the community’s trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. Protecting and assisting victims of crime should be the office’s top priority. Vindictive prosecutions and the revolving door for repeat offenders must come to an end. I have a proven track record of successfully managing challenging public safety problems and I am committed to serving the public in a fair and just manner.
I have more than 30 years of experience practicing law throughout Washington and in our Federal and State Courts, including the United States Bankruptcy Court. Of the candidates, I have the broadest legal experience handling and taking to trial civil, criminal and domestic relations law in many different forums and courts. I know what is needed and expected in criminal, civil and domestic cases.
1) For a number of years I have pointed out the many problems with the operations of the office of the prosecutor including, but not limited to, undercharging criminals and the danger when criminals are set free on our streets along with wasteful and vindictive litigation. My goals and philosophy are simple, protect and serve the citizens of Kitsap County and insure that our tax dollars are not wasted on questionable claims.
2) Unlike our current systems of charging, if the individual who is arrested has a history of convictions, a career criminal, or is violent or dangerous offender, I will charge that individual to the full extent of the law. With regards to those that break the law, but are good candidates for rehabilitation, I will work with them with deferred prosecution/sentencing or treatment. Each case referred to our office will be individually handled.
3) No other attorney running for prosecutor has the broad range, experience and understanding of civil litigation in Federal and State Courts and understands the costs true costs of litigation. I understand the complexity of the often times interrelation between civil, criminal and domestic relations law and the consequences of poor legal advice and ill advised litigation. I view litigation as the last resort to a problem.
4) There are two very large issues in selecting the next prosecutor. The first is the “revolving jail house door” which I intend to close by fully prosecuting repeat and violent offenders. The second major issue is insuring that the civil division of the prosecutor’s office avoids costly civil litigation whenever possible and that we work in good faith with our assorted guilds to insure timely and fair resolution of employee contacts.
I served 10 years in the Air Force, management in private sector business for 12 years, and worked as a defense attorney representing indigent defendants accused of felonies from simple drug possession to murder for nearly 8 years. It is this combination of experience that makes me uniquely qualified to serve in this position. I also will be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars, utilizing alternative dispute options rather than costly litigation in civil cases.
1) The Prosecutor must balance great power with its enormous responsibility. As the elected prosecutor I am accountable to the taxpayers – who want to know that their tax dollars are being used wisely and that crime is appropriately addressed. As a manager, taxpayer, and prosecutor I will balance the great responsibility with the power, never forgetting who I work for or what I work for. I want to do this job, not aspire to a bigger job.
2) I will make fiscally responsible charging decisions concerning low level crimes and aggressively prosecute crimes against personal security. Plea bargains are appropriate when the case is weak, or the defense is strong, and when a victim is involved, the victims wishes should be considered. However, if cases are charged appropriately, bargaining down charges should be minimal.
3) Actually, about 90 percent of the work done in the prosecutor’s office is the criminal work. However, the civil work affects 90 percent of the citizens. I am a skilled manager who will hire the best people to lead and work in the civil division. I will also complete a top to bottom review of the civil division and set policies to address issues. I will also develop a way to measure whether the changes are successful.
4) Each candidate has a different opinion, however, I believe it is inappropriate charging and failure to consider victims concerns or desires in the resolution. I will set policies addressing charging decisions and measure the outcomes. I will ensure all deputies and staff are trained in communicating with victims. I will also work with the Superior Court, jail, and defense bar to address the and redesign the current process of filing felonies in district court.