Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Jeff Rosen's Swearing-In Ceremony: Poorly Planned

If you missed Jeff Rosen's public swearing-in ceremony on January 19, 2011, don't worry about it. The event was poorly planned, leaving many people waiting outside, unable to get in. Security guards and event personnel locked the doors while the event was happening, leaving me to try the balcony view. However, when I attempted to find a spot on the balcony, security personnel grabbed my arm  and took me outside.  

Yup, a security guard escorted me out, even after I explained I had RSVPed and even after two other people exited the balcony. He wouldn't give me his card, so I snapped a picture. Then I, along with many other people, waited downstairs and was allowed to enter after the event was over. So much for "being on the list." I hope Mr. Rosen's office publishes a transcript of his speech online. From what I understand, Mr. Rosen was very conciliatory towards his predecessor in his speech.

On the way down, I spoke with Moises "Mo" Reyes, Jr., apparently the head of security for the event. He was polite and explained that fire department regulations prevented security from letting in more people; in fact, the existing number of people inside was already over the legal limit, so even when people left, they couldn't let anyone else in. He also explained that security did not plan the event, and the event planning department was in charge. That all makes sense. I wish the guy upstairs would have told me the same thing instead of just grabbing my arm and telling me to leave.

In case you're wondering why people were able to go inside after the event was over, but not during the event, Mr. Reyes Jr. said (paraphrased) he believed fire regulations were more broad for standing room vs. sitting down.

The event wasn't a total loss. First, the food was quite good. I had coffee, fruit, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and about ten chocolate chip cookies. (I'd like to thank Santa Clara County taxpayers for my dinner tonight.) [Update: the catering and rental space cost only $6K, with half going to the City of San Jose; however, there were many county security personnel on duty, so the actual costs are probably much higher.] Second, as I will explain below, I finally learned why so many public defenders supported Mr. Rosen. I had initially intended to vote for Dolores Carr, the incumbent. I was concerned because Ms. Carr is married to a police officer, but I didn't view a personal relationship as sufficient rationale to justify removing a sitting D.A.

Moreover, the brouhaha about Carr's blanket peremptory strike--which forces a particular judge to withdraw from criminal cases--seemed overblown. If you examine the underlying facts, Carr was upset because a judge had released a child molester despite having the discretion to keep him behind bars. Rosen and Carr were in the D.A.'s office during the time the child molester was released, so I still don't understand why Carr didn't more clearly state that her office disagreed with the judge's release of a child molester and felt that the judge had gone out of her way to blame the D.A.'s office for technical violations rather than using her discretion to keep him behind bars. She could have then said she didn't believe any other judge would have released the child molester, so she didn't anticipate another use of the peremptory strike, which, by the way, is something the legislature specifically makes available to lawyers for precisely this scenario. Of course, there are at least two ways of looking at the blanket strike issue, but Carr seemed to concede fault by not highlighting the particular facts that led her to issue the blanket strike.

In any case, it really bothered me that every single public defender and criminal defense lawyer I knew supported Jeff Rosen. The day before the election, Mr. Rosen left me a message on my answering machine, asking me for my vote. What the heck, I thought. Ms. Carr hadn't seemed to do any substantial campaigning, and I had to admire Mr. Rosen's excellent campaigning skills and endorsements from numerous lawyers I personally knew.

Yet, up to tonight, I hadn't learned exactly why criminal defense lawyers seemed to favor Mr. Rosen over Ms. Carr. I ran into a classmate and defense lawyer, who explained to me that Mr. Rosen had promised an "open discovery" process, whereas Ms. Carr's office (as well as her predecessor's) seemed to have a history of not disclosing all material evidence in good faith. Under Mr. Rosen's new policy, any defense lawyer may go into the D.A.'s office and see all of his/her client's files except for work product and the usual exceptions. If anyone wants to understand why Mr. Rosen's policy makes sense, they should watch the excellent 1993 movie, In the Name of the Father. In the meantime, I hope Mr. Rosen gets used to his popularity and does a better job planning future events.

Disclaimer: unless specifically stated otherwise, no portion of this blog is commercial in nature in any fashion, nor operated for profit. The author sincerely believes that this post addresses issues of public interest. The events discussed above took place in a public government building open to the public. The picture above was taken in a public government building at an event open to the public, and the person photographed did not object to the taking of the picture at the time it was taken. [Update: picture was removed on February 14, 2012]

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