Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

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xn3345

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Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby xn3345 » Sun Feb 04, 2018 7:44 pm

If one believes the best thing prosecutors can do in the vast majority of cases is either put down the hammer or swing it with drastically less force, can one still function/rise in an only mildly progressive district attorney's office? I'd love to be proud of and rewarded for choosing mercy, but I'm not sure I'm being realistic. Can any progressive, non-vengeful ADAs with experience working for lukewarm progressives comment or provide insight?

I know the natural thing to do would be to go into public defense, but I'm under the impression that I could potentially have a bigger impact as a prosecutor.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:34 pm

Work in domestic violence. Most offices don't give a s*** about it.

It would drive me crazy, but if you get off on doing nothing, it's the place to be.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun Feb 04, 2018 11:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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White Dwarf

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby White Dwarf » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:46 pm

xn3345 wrote:If one believes the best thing prosecutors can do in the vast majority of cases is either put down the hammer or swing it with drastically less force


Don't say this during interviews.

It's all well and good to talk about alternative sentencing, proper use of discretion, and so on. But, how well your viewpoint will be received really depends on the kind of work you want to do. If you want to work on juvenile offenders, low level drug stuff, or something like that, you'll probably be fine. But if you want to work on violent felonies, it isn't going to go over well.

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:47 pm

Do appeals. Hammer already swung.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 05, 2018 1:56 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Good point, but I meant that OP might have an easier time stomaching the stuff if he/she focuses on advocating on state’s behalf in narrow legal issues...as opposed to a trial and several pleas every month.

OP probably shouldn’t be an ada, though. PD seems like a better fit.

kyle1978

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby kyle1978 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Why would this be worse?

objctnyrhnr

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:01 pm

kyle1978 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Why would this be worse?


also, this happens on trial level first and is rarely flipped (at least in my state), now that I think about it

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Civilservant » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:45 pm

People that think in terms of justice being done, and not just keeping track of wins and losses, are probably better cut out to be a DA. The true believers on either side are just going to burn out, if you keep your head on your shoulders, you will probably last longer. In an interview, I guess this can be best conveyed as stating that you want to do right by each individual case, and that you understand there are hard decisions that you will have to make regularly.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 05, 2018 4:48 pm

kyle1978 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Why would this be worse?


Let's say dude immigrated to the US when he was 2, lived here his entire life otherwise, and was convicted of selling a small quantity of Marijuana in the mid-90s when he was 19. Served his time, started his career, and had a family here. No other contacts with the criminal justice system.

In 2018, ICE decides it wants to deport him for this mid-90s, low-level drug offense. Defendant can move to vacate his judgment of conviction on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, i.e. his attorney told him he wouldn't be deported, but he has the burden of proving as much. As you can imagine, it's almost impossible for him to prove the contents of a conversation that occurred over twenty years ago.

As an ADA in Appeals, you're expected to defend the conviction -- argue that the defendant hasn't met his burden of establishing he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. To me, arguing in support of the conviction -- thereby keeping the door open to a defendant's removal -- is worse than convicting him in the first place, especially considering that the defendant may actually be telling the truth but he just can't prove it and that ICE rarely enforced deportation for such low level offenses back then. The prosecutor may have knowingly or unknowingly opened the door, but you're keeping the door open.

kyle1978

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby kyle1978 » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kyle1978 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Why would this be worse?


Let's say dude immigrated to the US when he was 2, lived here his entire life otherwise, and was convicted of selling a small quantity of Marijuana in the mid-90s when he was 19. Served his time, started his career, and had a family here. No other contacts with the criminal justice system.

In 2018, ICE decides it wants to deport him for this mid-90s, low-level drug offense. Defendant can move to vacate his judgment of conviction on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, i.e. his attorney told him he wouldn't be deported, but he has the burden of proving as much. As you can imagine, it's almost impossible for him to prove the contents of a conversation that occurred over twenty years ago.

As an ADA in Appeals, you're expected to defend the conviction -- argue that the defendant hasn't met his burden of establishing he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. To me, arguing in support of the conviction -- thereby keeping the door open to a defendant's removal -- is worse than convicting him in the first place, especially considering that the defendant may actually be telling the truth but he just can't prove it.


I see what you're saying. Doesn't seem that outrageous, imo, though. I'm not that familiar with immigration, but there is a personal use exception for marijuana, so in your hypo, the guy would still be eligible for cancellation for LPRs. Even if he had more than a personal amount of marijuana, but less than whatever you consider a large amount, it doesn't seem that (morally?) difficult to make a procedural argument that the defendant has the burden of proving that he received ineffective assistance of counsel (albeit, such a burden is a high one --- but for a good reason!).

I do agree, though, that OP should probably tread carefully when applying for DA/AUSA positions - s/he doesn't really seem to be fit for actually sending people to prison for (sometimes very, very long) periods of time

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby andythefir » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:02 pm

Prosecutors wake up in the morning in order to fight for victims, who are usually cut from the same cloth as defendants. DAs and PDs do mostly the same thing, except DAs have way more logistical demands and spend more time with cops, where PDs spend way more time in jails and have to take calls from worked up family members.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:28 pm

kyle1978 wrote:I see what you're saying. Doesn't seem that outrageous, imo, though. I'm not that familiar with immigration, but there is a personal use exception for marijuana, so in your hypo, the guy would still be eligible for cancellation for LPRs. Even if he had more than a personal amount of marijuana, but less than whatever you consider a large amount, it doesn't seem that (morally?) difficult to make a procedural argument that the defendant has the burden of proving that he received ineffective assistance of counsel (albeit, such a burden is a high one --- but for a good reason!).

I do agree, though, that OP should probably tread carefully when applying for DA/AUSA positions - s/he doesn't really seem to be fit for actually sending people to prison for (sometimes very, very long) periods of time



There's a personal use exception if you're convicted of a possession crime. If you're convicted of selling it, regardless of how much, its a deportable offense.
And you're not just making a procedural argument describing the defendant's burden. You're making a substantive argument that the defendant failed to meet that burden.

As far as whether it doesn't "morally" difficult to make the argument, that's your opinion. I've made the arguments. And I've "won" the motions, effectively upholding the order of removal. Removing a defendant from the only home that he's ever known for a stupid mistake he made when he was a young adult isn't why I became a prosecutor, especially if he served his sentence and has led a completely law-abiding life afterwards.

In context of this post, the OP asked whether a "bleeding heart" should become a prosecutor and someone suggested to do Appeals. I'm saying that even Appeals may, in some cases, not be a good fit for someone with OP's professed ideology.

CanadianWolf

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:58 pm

Do NOT do appeals.

The poster who suggested that option since "the hammer has already swung" assumes that you will feel no guilt in defending a wrongful conviction simply because you did not participate in the trial. Actually, your feelings of guilt might be heightened because you must defend and minimize wrongful conduct that assisted in a conviction which may be unjust & unwarranted.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:15 pm

OP: Once you pick a side (prosecutor or public defender), the reality of your practice will replace your kind hearted feelings.

Be aware, that while DA's offices frequently hire former PDs, any respectable public defender's office is highly unlikely to hire a former prosecutor--even with no potential conflict issues.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:33 pm

Why not just become a PD? It seems like a better fit for you. And I'm not sure that your thought about potentially having a great impact as a prosecutor is all that accurate. If you're an ADA, in most places you won't have a ton of discretion in that you need to seek approval from your supervisors to reduce or dismiss charges. If it's not a progressive (liberal) office, then there's a pretty big risk that your supervisors and/or DA won't give you permission to do what is right. I've been practicing for several years now and know several attorneys in my town that were former ADAs, and it doesn't sound like they had all that much discretion (I recall one saying his supervisor's attitude was, "if there isn't enough evidence to prove a case, then try it and let the jury decide that" for cases where there genuinely wasn't enough evidence to prove the case. He said that he often had to look like an asshole and put on a show for the jury in a case where there was basically no evidence of certain elements that were required to commit the crime). And I live in a pretty liberal area, so I can only imagine what a more conservative area would look like.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 06, 2018 5:10 pm

Philadelphia recently elected a very progressive DA, Larry Krasner.

dixiecupdrinking

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Wed Feb 07, 2018 11:48 am

You can jump through all the mental hoops you want, but ultimately if you don't want to put people in prison, you shouldn't work in a role where it's your job to put people in prison.

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Re: Being an ADA as a bleeding heart

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 07, 2018 7:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kyle1978 wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:Do appeals. Hammer already swung.



Worse in some cases, i.e. arguing that the court shouldn't vacate the judgment of conviction for a defendant that already has completed his sentence, and that conviction is the basis for deportation.


Why would this be worse?


Let's say dude immigrated to the US when he was 2, lived here his entire life otherwise, and was convicted of selling a small quantity of Marijuana in the mid-90s when he was 19. Served his time, started his career, and had a family here. No other contacts with the criminal justice system.

In 2018, ICE decides it wants to deport him for this mid-90s, low-level drug offense. Defendant can move to vacate his judgment of conviction on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, i.e. his attorney told him he wouldn't be deported, but he has the burden of proving as much. As you can imagine, it's almost impossible for him to prove the contents of a conversation that occurred over twenty years ago.

As an ADA in Appeals, you're expected to defend the conviction -- argue that the defendant hasn't met his burden of establishing he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. To me, arguing in support of the conviction -- thereby keeping the door open to a defendant's removal -- is worse than convicting him in the first place, especially considering that the defendant may actually be telling the truth but he just can't prove it and that ICE rarely enforced deportation for such low level offenses back then. The prosecutor may have knowingly or unknowingly opened the door, but you're keeping the door open.


Appeals ADA here. Clearly this is office dependent (Sanctuary FTW), but I'm permitted to consent to a re-pleader for a non drug offense by conceding that the plea was not knowingly entered. Very often the defendant hasn't even come close to meeting his burden of ineffectiveness but has stayed out of trouble otherwise.

Granted it's only recent that we've been doing this a lot more often, but we aren't heartless.



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