LA TIMES OPINION: Republicans’ Ominous Strategy to Thwart Criminal Justice Reform and Democracy

PC: DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD via Tampa Bay Times

By Paloma Sifuentes and Roni Ayalon

LOS ANGELES, CA- In February, a federal court “took Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to task” for removing an elected county prosecutor from his role—criminal justice reform advocates see this as a positive sign, but they shouldn’t be too quick to jump to conclusions, according to the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board.

In this case, the Times noted U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Gov. DeSantis violated the 1st Amendment and Florida law by removing the prosecutor, Andrew Warren, based on his stance and statements against Florida’s new abortion ban and “proposed legislation to criminalize gender-affirming care.”

The governor, a Republican, is accused by the Times of using this “blatantly political and anti-democratic maneuver” as a way to get rid of this elected Democratic prosecutor and instead appoint a conservative prosecutor of his own choice, thereby disenfranchising the voters in the county.

Even though the court ruled against the Governor, and there wasn’t “a hint of misconduct by Mr. Warren,” the Times said, noting Warren was unable to reclaim his position, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

The Tallahassee Democrat also reports that “because the suspension didn’t hinge on the federal constitutional violation, the court lacked the authority to… reinstate him as Hillsborough’s top prosecutor.”

This move by DeSantis is representative of a bigger Republican “ominous strategy to thwart the reform prosecutor movement,” according to the LA Times Editorial Board, adding although there are reform prosecutors in both the Democratic and Republican parties, most are Democrats from urban constituencies.

Citing a Brennan Center study, the Times said “reform prosecutors generally seek to divert lower-level defendants to treatment, and to reserve the harshest prosecution for the most dangerous crimes. Many reformers question the cozy relationship that more traditional prosecutors have with police, and the hands-off attitude they too often take in officer misconduct cases.”

For example, the LA Times board explains, the recent police misconduct against Tyre Nichols was handled by a reform prosecutor who “quickly filed felony charges against the Memphis officers.”

For Republicans who are tough on crime, this isn’t the way they want cases to be handled and are using this “playbook” across the country to stop the reform movement, said the Times.

Another prominent example of this, the board says, is the impeachment of Larry Krasner, a Democratic Philadelphia district attorney, by a Republican majority legislature.

The case is currently going through the courts, which is part of the strategy that Republicans are using to entangle Democratic prosecutors in the court system, said the Times, adding other “attacks against prosecutorial discretion come in the form of lawsuits, legislation and state bar complaints.”

The LA Times: “Republican politicians and their law enforcement allies are now following this playbook in cities and counties around the nation, as summarized in a January report by the Local Solutions Support Center and the Public Rights Project. Attacks against prosecutorial discretion come in the form of lawsuits, legislation and state bar complaints.

Republican lawmakers in Texas are considering bills that would empower state Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton — who, ironically, continues to hold office despite being indicted on felony charges — to block locally elected prosecutors from limiting enforcement of any criminal offense.

“Iowa’s Republican governor proposed restructuring state government to allow the state attorney general (currently a Republican) to take cases away from district attorneys like the recently elected reform D.A. in Polk County, who is a Democrat.”

The LA Times Editorial Board listed a myriad of other examples of the GOP “plan.”

“Subversion of elections like Warren’s and Krasner’s is a tactic that, if successful, will not stop with district attorneys,” the Times Board notes, adding:

“Republicans may see their future in Jackson, Miss. The Mississippi House has signed on to a plan to carve out a new jurisdiction within the Black-majority city with judges and prosecutors who would be appointed by three state officials, all of whom are white (no Black person has held statewide office in Mississippi since 1890).

“The move is ostensibly a response to crime. If it succeeds, it will in fact be a case of white Republicans assaulting criminal justice reform, local government, majority rule, Democrats and the Black vote on a scale that surpasses anything that DeSantis or other Republicans around the nation have yet attempted.”

About The Author

Paloma Sifuentes is a Senior at California State University, Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice. She plans on attending law school after she graduates with her bachelors degree in the spring of 2023. She is very passionate about Criminal Law and intends on working as an associates attorney in a law firm after law school.

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