Prosecutors & Reform

Four Prosecutors Fight to “Cure the Conflict” Created by Police Unions Funding DA Campaigns

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

In Los Angeles and other large jurisdictions, deep-pocketed police unions use their spending power not only to appeal firing and discipline decisions on behalf of their members accused of wrongdoing, but also to influence elections and legislative outcomes.

In the case of elections, unions give millions of dollars to politicians they believe will protect law enforcement officers’ interests. Things get more complicated when that money is funding campaigns for district attorney.

The most obvious problem area is that district attorneys’ offices decide whether to charge and prosecute law enforcement officers accused of crimes — officers that are members of, and protected by, those same unions that pump hundreds of thousands — and in the case of big jurisdictions like Los Angeles, millions of dollars — into DA races. Critics of this current system say that the campaign cash (and prosecutors’ need to work closely with police, in general) creates a serious conflict of interest.

This is why four prosecutors, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, former San Francisco DA George Gascón — who is currently running for LA County DA against incumbent DA Jackie Lacey — and San Joaquin County DA Tori Verber Salazar, have asked the California State Bar to “cure the conflict” by either amending the Bar’s rules regarding professional conduct, or by issuing an ethics opinion.

“Receiving an endorsement and campaign contributions from an entity that finances opposing counsel creates, at a minimum, the appearance of a conflict of interest for elected prosecutors,” the four wrote in a letter to the Bar. “District Attorneys will undoubtedly review use of force incidents involving their members. When they do, the financial and political support of these unions” might play a roll in the case outcome.

The California Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which are “binding on all attorneys licensed by the State Bar,” were established to “protect the public and to promote respect and confidence in the legal profession.” These rules were most recently updated on June 1, 2020.

The rules say that a lawyer cannot represent a client when “the lawyer has … a legal, business, financial, professional, or personal relationship with or responsibility to a party or witness in the same matter.”

“It is illogical,” said DA Becton, “that the rules prohibit prosecutors from soliciting and benefiting from financial and political support from an accused officer’s advocate in court, while enabling the prosecutor to benefit financially and politically from the accused’s advocate in public.”

In Los Angeles County, District Attorney Jackie Lacey has faced criticism and protests for failing to prosecute law enforcement officers accused of crimes. For example, when former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked for an officer to be charged in the killing of Brendon Glenn, an unarmed man who was homeless at the time, Lacey declined. In the few cases where Lacey’s office has brought charges against officers, the light punishments reflected a two-track justice system that works differently when police commit crimes. In the case of former LASD deputy Giancarlo Scotti, who was accused of rape and other forms of sexual violence by at least eight women in the county’s women’s jail, a sentence of two years in a fire camp, with no inclusion on the sex offender registry.

In the 2020 primary election, much of Lacey’s $2.2 million in campaign funds sent to political action committees came from LA’s law enforcement unions. The Los Angeles Police Protective League sent $1 million to an anti-Gascón political action committee, in the hope of keeping Lacey in office for another term. In the general election, the money from the unions has kept on coming.

In an email to LA Magazine in June, DA Lacey called cutting off campaign contributions from police unions “an extremely dangerous path to go down,” comparing it to blocking teachers’ unions from donating to school board elections. Lacey went on to criticize her opponent’s acceptance of “millions of dollars from a handful of billionaires from outside of our community.”

“I’m proud to be the candidate of organized labor, from law enforcement to truck drivers to steelworkers to firefighters,” Lacey wrote.

In July, the State Bar responded to the four prosecutors’ letter, by bringing up questions of constitutionality and equal protection issues. The Bar sent the proposed rule change to its Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) for further consideration. The committee has heard from the prosecutors and from members of the public via Zoom meetings. And the process is expected to last into the fall, at which point the committee will submit a report to the Bar’s Board of Trustees. (The CA Supreme Court must ultimately approve amendments.)

In its letter, the Bar questioned whether the proposal would “limit free speech in the form of a campaign contribution in violation of the First Amendment.”

During a COPRAC meeting last week, DA Boudin challenged that possibility.

“Our rule would survive First Amendment scrutiny because it is narrowly tailored to further the state’s compelling interest in maintaining public confidence in the integrity of prosecutors,” Boudin said, adding that “millions of people across the country have taken to the streets over the last several months to demand,” among other big justice changes, an overhaul of the prosecution machine that funnels Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color into jails and prison and community supervision, while failing to hold cops accountable for killing unarmed civilians.

“These feelings, these protests, and the pain we’re seeing, would not be as raw and widespread if we had seen police held accountable by local prosecutors quickly and with regularity,” said Gascón.

Updating the rules “would not only help to avoid conflicts and ensure the independence of elected prosecutors,” said Boudin, but it would also “enhance trust in our criminal justice system at a time when trust is sorely needed.”

The four reform-minded current and former DAs are not the only prosecutors who would like to see the flow of cash from unions to DA campaigns dry up, either. In a May 29 letter addressing police misconduct and the death of George Floyd, 40 elected prosecutors across the nation signed a letter of justice reforms that included a call for the American Bar Association to ban prosecutors from accepting campaign donations from police departments or unions.

43 Comments

  • DAs take an oath the uphold the constitution and to enforce all laws. Suggesting Union donations have impacted prosecutors decisions, without evidence, is despicable. Many Police Unions supported the efforts against legalizing marijuana, maintaining the death penalty and to amend the failures of prop 214. They also fight for crime victims, employee rights and govt pensions. Typical leftist… suppress any and all dissent.

    • The DA didn’t do his job in the case of the child molester from the LASD . The rapist/ child molester was only given a 3 year sentence. His union paid lawyer and police union backed DA gave Neil David Kimball a slap on the wrist for raping a child

      • Fx,

        You are throwing out terms you really don’t understand.

        1) The ALADS (LASD Deputy union) president (Ron Hernandez) said in the other thread, that you participated in, they did not pay for Kimball’s attorney.

        2) The DA you are railing against is the Ventura County DA where the crime was committed and he was charged, not the LA County DA. They have no connection to the LA County Deputy Sheriffs.

        3) The low term Kimball received was explained in that thread as well. The Ventura County DA did not believe they could prove the more serious rape charge and settled with Kimball on lewd acts with a child and statutory rape. That “slap on the wrist” includes a prison sentence, years of parole, sex offender registration for the rest of his life, termination as a deputy sheriff, and prohibition from ever working as a peace officer again – a well-earned, lifetime scarlet letter.

        In that other thread, you also said, “he deserves some Brazilian style street justice.” You don’t understand basic civics, and you advocate street justice murders. Rich

        • Ventura County is pro police regardless of crimes committed by Cops.

          LAPD Officers were acquitted on criminal charges for excessive use of force Rodney King and now a light sentence for a LASD rapist, go figure.

        • I do support the death penalty especially for rapist / child molesters. I’m sorry but I’m not a bledding heart liberal when it comes to child molesters especially if they are in a position of power like an SVU detective. He shoul also be federally charged with violating her civil rights (and any other charges) since the Ventura DA didn’t do is job.

          I’m not shedding any tears because a rapist lost his job. Losing a job is not punishment for rape.

          • @ Dose,
            Not the D.A. but the jurors.

            Everyone knows how deep Ventura County is with the amount of Cops and the Pro Police community during that trial.

            The acquittal was a no- brainer.

  • Under this rationale, it would be a conflict for any person to donate because we would all could potentially be investigated and prosecuted by the DA’s Office…

  • Using the California Bar in an end run around the constitution is a pretty slimy scheme. Obviously Gascon and his buddies know they have zero chance of making this kind of overt discrimination into law, or having any of this stuff stand up in court, so this is almost certainly a PR stunt. An appeal to the liberal base, and of course witness la is all for it.

    Btw, if DA’s can’t take campaign money form anyone who they may have to prosecute in the future, that pretty much excludes everyone doesn’t it? After all, it’s possible anyone living in the jurisdiction could some day be prosecuted for something. If this stuff were to become law the only people who could finance a D.A’s campaign would be someone like a progressive billionaire from a foreign country. And the people living within the jurisdiction would be powerless. This Gascon character is up to no good.

  • All organizations use their financial might to get what is best for their people. DNC at the top of the list! SPLC collecting monies for criminals i.e. murderers. ACLU collecting monies to defend those who murder officers. Biden,Harris and Soros bailing out rioters. There is no conflict not any laws broken. So, where should the police unions spend their monies? Or Antifa? Get a grip!

      • Initially, I thought(incorrectly) that many that post were involved with Criminal Justice? Maybe you have noted that sex crimes are very difficult to prosecute. Gascon hasn’t done any better and check out his history. In the mentioned case, Ventura DA wasn’t any better. Currently, there are lawyers, for high fees, consult other dirt bag lawyers on how to destroy victims of sexual attacks. Recall Hillary Clinton defended a rapist and laughed at the victim after getting the scum bag off?
        The DOJ recently submitted to the court that prosecution stop as the case was falsified and to let the defendant go. Instead of dismissing the case, as ordered, the Judge appealed to enbanc DC entire panel. It’s the Flynn case.
        When a client walks in with a case you are legally required to defend the person. OUR SYSTEM DEFENDS THE INNOCENT AND THE GUILTY, just in case you are new to the planet. So, if you are guilty by social media you don’t get a defense?
        I’ve always supported restitution for the victims but she will never be the same. Working in a women’s shelter is something that we all should do, I have. At he same time I know from these type of cases there are people who lie about being victims. Take a look at the cases that come before any DA and see how many cases have no merit. It’s sad and tragic that when a so-called victim, is less than honest, an innocent person was almost convicted for a crime that was not committed. And sometimes innocent people are convicted or have founded cases because they were framed and it took years before the truth came out. I still support a Truth Commission.
        This monster is off the streets and in prison. But, there was a COVID case where an illegal alien committed a rape. He was released and he murdered the victim. The point? This is how the system works;if you have a better system like trial by WLA go for it!
        At times the system sucks;you don’t know that?
        What we don’t know is why these cases are not prosecuted. Maybe we should burn, murder, riot and start our own CHOP?
        So, do these ‘banditos’ get representation or not? It’s easy to complain and hide behind a fake name as long as the prosecution finger is not aimed at you!

  • DA Jackie Lacey’s Assistant Head Deputy has been caught lying in a criminal case, falsifying information. He claimed that a “loophole in the law” allows landlords to commit burglary, theft, and physical assault against their tenants.

    He has even said that physical abuse against a tenant is OK “as long as there are no injuries resulting in hospital bills.”

    And he admitted that — while it is a felony for a landlord to sneak into a tenant’s bedroom for the purpose of stealing from the tenant — he claimed that the crime is protected under this “loophole in the law.”

    However, no such provision in the law exists. It was a complete fabrication made up by the Assistant Head Deputy in charge of evaluating crimes. But why would he fabricate a “loophole in the law” to justify crime?

    The landlord, in this case, happens to have family in law enforcement. So it is easy to conceive why the DA would be willing to lie in a criminal case, brushing aside video evidence, to help make a crime disappear. When a DA can be given millions of dollars from influential law enforcement agencies within their district, the integrity of the DA is then put more at risk of being compromised …like judges being paid off by certain law firms that they most often work with in court, which, to my knowledge, does not happen, and for good reason. It can become a case of law enforcement investigating itself, and then naturally finding itself innocent of all crime, with no independent checks or balances. The public safety may end up with a greater risk of citywide corruption.

    And we end up with situations like this. The Assistant Head Deputy was simply doing a favor, justifying criminal actions on behalf of a family member of law enforcement, with connections to the agencies making the major campaign donations.

    Unfortunately, this also means gaslighting the victim into believing that the law has abandoned her.

    • what a piece of shit! i wonder what loopholes numbnuts came up with in not holding the ELA Sheriff’s click of pansies accountable for their cowardly acts? What a shit show!!!!

  • The police unions support the politicans who will vote to give cops pay raises or outright theft of public funds by programs like DROP (deferred retirement option program )

    Government employee unions main purpose is to suck every drop of money from the city, county, state etc.

    But police unions also protect dirty and corrupt cops from being prosecuted or fired from their jobs. The police unions will even protect cops who are child molesters like scumbag Neil David Kimball

  • The DA didn’t do his job in the case of the child molester from the LASD . The rapist/ child molester was only given a 3 year sentence. His union paid lawyer and police union backed DA gave Neil David Kimball a slap on the wrist for raping a child

  • @Fx, the general criteria for representation is “course and scope” of their duties and through the administrative process, if no charges are filed.

    EVERYONE (private citizens and law enforcement) deserves due process.

    @Celeste: how many more times are you going to allow “Fx” to make libelous accusations against the deputies association/ union?

    You’ve corrected others for less!

  • With regards to DA’s taking donations from unions, can you explain the recent high profile instances where DA’s have taken not only an ant-police stance, but anti-average law abiding citizen, abti-prosecution, pro-criminal position. Cities such as Portland, Atlanta, Seattle, St.Louis and Chicago to name a few have DA’s that are funded by who based on their philosophy with regards to the job of the DA? Far left anti-government, socialist/communist groups? Organized crime? Terrorist groups such as ANTIFA and their supporters such as George Soros? Oh, and people like Gascon, who is funding him the Cartels, gangs and criminal rights groups such as the ACLU? Everybody is beholding, bent toward and biased toward their benefactors. That’s life and politics it would seem.

  • @ Ron Hernandez,

    You speak with a forked tongue, with your “course & scope” dialogue crap. ALADS was formed 50 years ago and not much has changed in the past 20 years with the turnaround, actually a spin around with leadership.

    For those who are politically aware and want no parts of ALADS padding the pockets of politicians to garner their favor is why LASPA was formed among other reasons, ask LASPA Cofounder ALEX VILLANUEVA about that.

    Also the Janus Decision allows those who are politically woke to “opt out” of ALADS or any public union for that matter.

    Still on ALADS radar and in ALADS pocket$ is the DEPUTY vs DEPUTY Fiasco BC540789 was laughed at by the District Attorney’s Office then rejected. You and your crew at ALADS wanted blood so there you go with major monetary loss to membership.
    So much for “course & scope”…

  • @ Happy@LASPA, it’s real easy for you to come on here with misleading info when no one can hold you accountable.

    If you want talk history, let’s talk about the Janus decision being historical. Yet the vast majority of deputies still remain ALADS members.

    Take a look at ALL these blogs/threads. It’s the same handful of people (you included), out of about 7600 deputies who bad mouth ALADS, with the same tired accusations.

    In 20 years, what has your beloved organization accomplished.

    They are unrecognized in the political world, where the legislation that affects law enforcement happens.

    Little to no recognition in the labor law world.

    Not a certified bargaining unit.

    Not part of any major law enforcement coalition in California..

    Which gives YOU more time to sit back and watch everyone else do the heavy lifting, while you criticize. I would expect nothing else, considering your job assignment.

    Probably not wise to bring up your co-founder, seeing as he benefitted heavily from our voice in that “political world.”

    I also noticed very few bite on your desire to stir up interest on the court case.

    The case itself is unfortunate, but not caused by ALADS, as much as you would like everyone to believe.

    Speaking of no filing! Why doesn’t Armando post the report, falsely accusing two fellow deputies of vandalism.

    You used “course and scope” twice and yet I’m not sure you truly understand the meaning.

    • Hey Ron,
      The Board of Supervisors whom you bemoan and criticize are also benefactors of ALADS political world that you give so much to, so why put money on them.
      You may not get what you pay for but you’ll pay for what you get

      Much to speak about however I marvel your reluctance to get to the real nitty gritty at your deflection, re the lingering costs of a retired deputy whom you still pursue.

      Q – What is your end game since cost does not matter with BC540789

      • @Happy@LASPA, spin it how you want, but I’m not going to talk about that court case, especially not here.

        I’m confident we are doing a good job for our members, as evidenced by deputies continuing as ALADS members, post Janus.

  • Ron, to let the truth be known, you will never hear from the silent majority of ALADS members.

    With nothing good or bad to say, just stating a obvious fact which is proven by the lack of participation with rep meetings and responses to surveys as well as ALADS annual elections.

  • @ Ron Hernandez & @ Happy LASPA

    Seeing that karma can also be good, the score was evened (actually won by Alex) when ALADS pumped in the million plus donation to Alex’s election victory.

    Many did not know that Villanueva was vilified by ALADS as a former member years ago, when he questioned the transparency and operating procedures of ALADS, LASPA was formed after that.

    Even though LASPA is not a bargaining unit, they provide top notch legal representation without personality conflicts.

  • @Just Saying, question: is the silent majority happy with ALADS, or unhappy? I know what I did when I was unhappy, with the help of many unhappy members. I believe deputies take action, when they are unhappy and it is necessary.

    @Retired member: not sure how to take the end of your comment “without personality conflicts.”

    Are you speaking of a past ALADS Board or current. I’ll agree with past, but this current Board never let’s personal conflict or opinions play a part in decisions of representation.

    We are serious about our fiduciary duties and any director with a personal conflict recuses himself/herself from the representation decision.

    I have personally witnessed a director(s) vote to represent a member despite personal feelings, because it was the right thing to do.

    No point in arguing or discussing the caliber of legal representation. Members can Google all parties, and I think many have.

  • Speaking of Unions,

    I chuckle when I see how ALADS is mum on their biggest (1 case) legal bill in 50 years, with crossed fingers from Ron praying that no one questions them on it for transparency, astronomical costs and longevity.

    • @No Clique No Car, stop, please!

      You’re the same person trying to make it look like multiple people care about what Armando got himself into.

      If you’re a member and you want an update, or you have questions, let me know and I’ll set up a briefing with the attorney.

      I realize many people don’t care for me and my personality, but I can guarantee it’s not because I’m a liar or a BSer.

      I’ve got nothing to hide and I’ll keep showing up to dispute your BS, as much as necessary.

      I haven’t had one member, who is truly engaged, come to a Rep meeting and ask about Armando.

      That being said, once again, if someone requests a briefing I’ll set it up and they can ask me, in person, about my role in that lawsuit.

      You should come along too, so you can watch me panic, sweat a squirm.

      • Seeing that the shenanigans surrounding that case did not occur in a vacuum, you’re too one sided to think only a few are knowledgeable.

        At times it is not always the earthquakes that do damage but the aftershocks also.

        Again, no clique • no car.

  • @No Clique No Car: so tell me Mister Seismologist, what kind of aftershocks would there be or have been if Armando had just been allowed to get away with his shenanigans.

    Do you not agree that we wish the county would fight false allegations, instead of paying people to go away.

    The aftershocks the county has created is a climate where everyone sues to get paid to go away, not for principal or accountability.

    Tell me, since you want to appear to be so knowledgeable. Has the court held that Armando did nothing wrong or is entitled to anything.

    If you’re going to lead people to believe, toss in some facts.

    I’m not going to discuss the details, but I will dispute your BS.

    Nothing stopping you from posting more details, except a little thing called the truth!

  • The County has nothing to do with ALADS inhouse feud nor the massive costs concerning it.

    As far as details go along with the truth, a higher court will decide that according to the public court case summary.

    Going by the names in that court summary, many are retired and could care less, why would they since ALADS members are footing the bill.

    It is what it is, as the lesson learned by future Union Administration or Board Members would be ” Is it worth it”.

    Lastly, no clique • no car

  • @No Clique No car, you missed an opportunity to factually embarrass me.

    That being said, Fred Astair would be proud of your performance.

  • It’s difficult to give any law enforcement officer or oversee’er, respect when it seems like they all form these little gangs or clicques in their department s to harass citizens. Two things I would love to see, you want to be a copper no tattoos at all. Even if it says I love Mom. It’s unprofessional. And no overweight cops. I have no respect for an out of shape individual who is suppose to ” protect and serve?”

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