Sunday, February 19, 2006

DA Turmoil Part II

Last week, the ABH ran an editorial about the problems in the DA's office, something we reported on about a month ago. The criticisms in the editorial have been echoed to us by sources in the local legal community. The consensus seems to be that Mr. Mauldin is a fine lawyer and prosecutor, but no so much with the administrative/managerial duties inherent in the job. That's unfortunate, since those duties are at least as important, if not more so, than the others. Generally speaking, only the most complex and high profile cases actually get tried by the DA himself, whereas managing the office is an everyday job and affects every case. I hope that Mr. Mauldin isn't micromanaging us out of an effective criminal justice system, but that's exactly what his critics suggest may be happening.

In a related story, Matt Karzen, the former chief assistant DA who is one of the three prosecutors who have left the office since Jan. 13, is apparently going to open up his own office here in town.


monticello_pres said...

I compare Mauldin's election by the A-CC voters to a sales person's promotion to division manager by a corporate board of directors. While tempting and even seemingly a "slam dunk", you lose your best salesperson while gaining a mediocre-at-best manager. So now you are weak at 2 positions.

I'll admit that this isn't a complete apples-to-apples comparison, but it happens time and time again. Corporations do it, voters do it, sports team owners do it (by promoting their offensive coordinator to head coach based only on their merits as such coordinator).

Hiring - or in this case - electing - is not easy. And sometimes it is very difficult to evaluate those skill sets. The frustrating part of this is that we saw some hints of problems in the first Mauldin term but still put him back in the position. Now, with more time, those problems are only compounding.

Publius said...

I think that's a pretty fair analysis, and a very apropos analogy.

Adrian said...

What if the D.A. was an appointed position? What do other states do?

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

According to a DOJ report ('prosecutors%20elected%20or%20appointed'), they are elected everywhere except Alaska, Connecticut, D.C., and New Jersey.

I've been tossing this around in my head for a long time. It seems there are many positions in Georgia, and I guess elsewhere, that are elected that maybe shouldn't be (foremost in my mind are judges; that's a whole other post I guess). However, for this position, it is the way most states do it. The advantage is that the DA is held politically responsible for the decisions he makes in protecting the community. The disadvantage is the flipside of the same thing; prosecutions, or the lack thereof, have the potential of becoming politically motivated. Apparently most states have decided that the advantage outweighs the disadvantage (either that, or they simply kept a system that had been in place for many years; just as likely actually).

However, in terms of the discussion at hand, I'm not sure it makes much difference. I think the tendency in appointments would be similar as in elections, to appoint someone with lots of prosecutorial experience. The problem is the same; someone with lots of prosecutorial experience might not have management skills. As the original analogy points out, this seems to happen in private business too, so I don't think appointment rather than election would solve the problem. The only answer is to have the decision maker, be it the voting public or an appointing official, take into account both aspects of the job when making the decision.