Recall DA Chesa Boudin
By Quentin L. Kopp
Crime seems to be the only San Francisco big business that escapes city government meddling, which is why District Attorney Chesa Boudin must be recalled. Like his predecessor, George Gascon, currently the subject of a recall campaign in Los Angeles County, Boudin acts as if it’s not among his responsibilities to prosecute criminals as he protects lawbreakers rather than criminal victims.
Recalling Boudin might not reduce crime in San Francisco, retired Judge Tomar Mason declares in an April 18 Examiner column, but it would restore prosecutorial integrity and citizen confidence in our judicial system. Boudin’s election resulted from the iniquitous “ranked choice” voting system enacted two decades ago.
With three major opponents, Boudin benefited, not from first choice selection by voters, but from the system’s elimination of some candidates who would’ve provided strong, successful prosecution of those accused of crime.
Instead of a runoff between the two top candidates in a June primary, San Franciscans are now stuck with a career assistant public defender whose zeal bespeaks failure to realize he’s no longer a public defender, but instead a protector of the rule of law and crime victims. His tepid reliance on facts obtained by San Francisco’s police, whom he treats as ideological ignoramuses and frustrates and insults, demonstrates his personal sympathies. The United States Attorney’s office continues to prosecute City Hall corruption while Boudin hasn’t filed a single such case, as if City Hall is free of illegality and he lacks the special unit of attorneys and investigators given him to do so.
I’ve been a San Francisco trial lawyer, mostly in civil cases but also criminal defense, since 1956 and a Superior Court judge presiding over criminal cases and civil disputes in San Mateo County Superior Court between 1999 and 2009. I’ve conducted arraignments, set bail or permitted release of a defendant without bail pending trial, presided over jury selection, ruled on objections by defense lawyers and prosecutors, instructed jurors on the law pertinent to evidence and closing arguments of the prosecution and defense and determined sentences if the defendant is convicted by a jury of peers.
Bail, for example, is authorized by the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 12(c) of California Constitution. Those who, like retired Judge Mason and David Markoff, head of the S.F. Pretrial Diversion Program, another bail antagonist paid by taxpayers, oppose jail detention of most defendants before trial. They ignore California’s constitutional law which expressly declares: “In fixing the amount of bail the court shall take into consideration the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case.”
Our State Constitution also provides rights to crime victims in setting bail for persons accused of serious crimes. Boudin, however, abhors pretrial jailing to prevent additional serious crimes before trial or non-appearance of the accused at pretrial hearings.
At press time, recall group San Franciscans for Public Safety had collected about 20,000 voter signatures and secured campaign donations totaling approximately $400,000. The necessary 51,000 recall voter signatures must be filed by Oct. 25, 2021 for placement on the next municipal election ballot.
Contrary to Retired Judge Mason, it isn’t “more costly to house a misdemeanor or pretrial defendant” in San Francisco than “to put a student through Stanford.” The daily cost is approximately $250 (try that number at Stanford University!) and every defendant is entitled to a speedy trial within 30 days after pleading “not guilty.”
While I agree that a single prosecutor doesn’t create crime, Boudin’s legal background and 18-month post-election conduct demonstrates more than crime statistics that victims can’t rely upon him to run the District Attorney’s office like a prosecutor, not a public defender.
That’s the reason for two recall campaigns against him; one led by Mary Chung, former chairwoman of the Democratic County Central Committee, Andrea Shorter, Leanna Louie, David Troup, Kenny Lin and Dena Aslanian-Williams, the other by a well-meaning Republican voter. I’ve signed both recall petitions and recommend you do so, too. Call Mary Chung at (415) 305-4999 to recall Boudin.
Meanwhile, the SF Police Officers Association (POA) tries “to … ensure … the public stays informed about the dangerous plea bargains [Boudin] is offering and the free passes he hands out like candy at Halloween to violent criminals.” POA President Tony Montoya wrote last month: “His disdain for crime victims is rooted in his criminals first policies and actions.” Ray Shine, POA Journal editor, asks: “Should we defund the DA?” Then, let’s eliminate ranked choice voting and stop police officer attrition.
Remember: A criminal doesn’t care who makes state and city laws so long as they aren’t enforced.
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.