Wed, Apr

CityWatch Interview: Federal Prosecutor Jeff Chemerinsky for LA County District Attorney 


LA POLITICS - In this crowded field of candidates to replace controversial incumbent George Gascon, Jeff Chemerinsky is an assistant United States Attorney focusing heavily on his law & order resume and credentials.  

With eleven challengers plus Gascon, the probability of a runoff seems self-evident, so finishing first or second on March 5th seems to be the electoral objective of these DA hopefuls.  

A prosecutor who is undefeated in the courtroom, Chemerinsky views himself as the logical Democratic alternative to the incumbent.  

Below is our interview with the candidate:  

Why are you running for District Attorney? What are the reasons and what are the solutions you are proposing?

An experienced Assistant United States Attorney, I’m running for Los Angeles County District Attorney to make our communities safer, reform our criminal justice system, and bring new leadership to the D.A.’s office.

I have a detailed list of priorities on my website at https://www.jeffforda.com/priorities
This is a crowded field of candidates. How do you stand out from the other challengers as well as the incumbent?

In a few ways.

First, I’ve never lost a case.

I also ran the federal robbery program in the US Attorney’s Office, and have successfully prosecuted dozens of smash and grab robbery cases across Southern California.

I also led the prosecution of more than 30 members of the MS-13 gang, including the leader of MS-13 in Los Angeles, and the leader of the East Coast Crips.

I’m the only candidate who consistently speaks about the need for criminal justice reform, because mass incarceration does not work.

I’m an outsider who will give a new perspective and fresh set of eyes to the longstanding problems and dysfunction in the District Attorney’s office.

And finally, I’m the leading Democratic challenger in the race, and the only challenger who has received endorsements from Democratic clubs, the LA League of Conservation Voters, and a major business group, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, along with leading Democratic elected officials.
Define justice. Is justice being served here in LA County?

Justice is ensuring people are held accountable for their crimes, and that they are treated fairly and equitably.

At this time, justice is not being served, because our communities are suffering from a lack of public safety, and fairness. If elected as District Attorney, I’ll be committed to keeping our communities safe and delivering reform to help make sure people are treated fairly.

What percentage of the cases coming out of the DA’s office are drug related or dealing with mental health?

It's difficult to provide an exact percentage without specific data, but we must acknowledge that a significant portion of cases handled by the office involve either drug-related offenses or issues related to mental health. These issues are pervasive and intersect with various aspects of our criminal justice system. 

What can be done to decrease recidivism? What strategies would you support?

We must offer substance abuse and mental health treatment; job training and placement; educational opportunities; and opportunities for restorative justice, so that offenders take responsibility for their actions and try to make amends with the victims.

All of these would help reduce recidivism and should be a major component of our criminal justice system and jails throughout California.

Should we elect District Attorney’s? Should these contests continue to be non-partisan?
Yes to both. I believe electing a DA provides accountability to the public.

What would be your relationship with the Sheriff’s office?
As chief of the violent and organized crime section for the US Attorney’s office, I already have a close relationship with the Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies. And if elected as DA, I would restore a sense of partnership with law enforcement so we can successfully prosecute cases and keep our communities safe.

What is your opinion on sentencing and sentencing guidelines?
If elected, I would ask our attorneys to pursue sentencing according to their individual circumstances of cases.

What is your opinion on qualified immunity, cash bail?

I support qualified immunity for law enforcement, and support the bail reform recently put in place by the Superior Court.
Does LA County require new facilities such as a new jail? Do you have a capital plan you would endorse?
Yes – without question, we must replace our jail facilities which are in such poor and unacceptable conditions. I would strongly support County investment in replacing facilities like Men’s Central Jail.

How are you reaching voters and what will be the cost of this campaign?
My campaign has the most cash on hand of any of the candidates in the race, and we’re using our campaign funds to reach voters through a variety of media. I’m also traveling across LA County to meet with residents, individually and in groups, every day in their communities so I can hear about their concerns and discuss my vision for a DA’s office that improves public safety and promotes reform to treat everybody fairly.

If you met a voter right now, what would you tell them why you are the best choice for Los Angeles County?

My highest priority is keeping you and your family safe. I served as chief of the violent and organized crime section for the US Attorney’s office, where I handled and supervised some of the toughest and most complex cases, and never lost a case.

I’m also committed to criminal justice reform, because mass incarceration does not work. And I’m the only candidate who has spoken about reform at every debate.

As an outsider with experience as a prosecutor and supervisor, I’ll bring a fresh perspective and new leadership that the DA’s office needs, after years of dysfunction.

Finally, I’m also the top Democratic challenger in the race, raising the most money of any Democratic candidate and earning major endorsements from Democratic groups and officials. For Democratic voters who want an alternative to Gascon, I am someone who will be effective as a prosecutor and also a reformer. I cannot be portrayed as a right-winger, which would happen to a lot of the other candidates, and I would be the strongest candidate in a general election matchup against the incumbent. 

(Nick Antonicello is a thirty-one year Venice resident covering this year’s races on the March 5thballot. Have a take or a tip on all things politics? Contact Antonicello via e-mail at [email protected].)