This was the
that I wrote condemning the Pacheco administration and why a change was
needed. This was one of my proudest moments as a criminal defense attorney.
By PAUL GRECH JR. and STEVEN L. HARMON
We can no longer endorse Rod Pacheco for district attorney. During three
and a half years as district attorney he has demonstrated that he is unfit
to lead the chief law enforcement agency of our county.
We have seen a series of poor decisions that wasted taxpayer money, clogged
the courts and deteriorated the quality of justice for all citizens of
Riverside County. We have seen the Riverside County court system overwhelmed
by an increase in needless and often frivolous criminal case filings and trials.
In order to accommodate the district attorney's new policies, the Riverside
County Superior Court suspended all trials of civil lawsuits. Victims
of auto accidents, professional negligence and purchasers of homes and
buildings with major construction defects could no longer have their cases
heard; employers and employees with disputes were denied a forum to try
their cases. Businesses needing timely decisions from our judges to adjust
to changing market conditions, or exploring relocation to Riverside, soon
discovered that clogged local courts meant Riverside was simply "bad
After shutting down the civil courts, Pacheco pressed the courts further,
demanding that juvenile dependency, family law and probate courts immediately
turn themselves over to criminal cases. His vision of Riverside would
have left us with no forum for removing children from abusive homes and
placing them in foster care. No courtrooms in which divorce and child
custody cases could be decided. No courtrooms in which a deceased person
may leave a legacy to heirs. Riverside County's judges refused Pacheco's
demand. He took the matter to the Court of Appeal and lost.
We have seen nearly 330 criminal cases dismissed due to court congestion.
We have seen more than 750 jury trials end without a conviction on any
charge. We have seen more than 800 additional jury trials end with a jury
acquittal on at least one charge. This failure rate is unprecedented for
Riverside County. Jurors have sacrificed thousands and thousands of days
away from their jobs to hear cases that should never have gone to trial.
We have seen a series of poor decisions that clogged the courts and eroded
the quality of justice for all citizens of Riverside County.
By the end of 2007, the crisis in Riverside had reached the attention of
the chief justice of the California Supreme Court. A strike force of the
best judges in California was dispatched to help our county. These judges
presided over trial after trial in which Riverside County citizens rejected
the DA's case and sent defendants home after they sat in jail for
years awaiting their day in court.
During 2007 and 2008, convicted criminals were given early releases from
Riverside County jail in record numbers because space was taken up by
a backlog of defendants awaiting trial. It is simply unacceptable that
as district attorney, Pacheco accepts no responsibility for this mess.
It is a failure of leadership.
DA Rod Pacheco won't adjust his destructive policies.
Citizens vote at the ballot box and in the jury box. The votes from the
jury box over three and a half years reflect a powerful rejection of Pacheco's
filing policies and misuse of taxpayer resources. Statistics compiled
by the courts and available for public review demonstrate that in record
numbers jurors are rejecting charges filed by the district attorney.
Pacheco's response has been to criticize jurors, judges and everyone
with whom he disagrees.
Judge Paul Zellerbach offers hope for positive change.
At one point, he even criticized criminal defendants and their lawyers
for demanding trials in which they would later be found not guilty.
For months, the district attorney has maintained that none of this is his
problem. He refuses to cooperate with the court in the orderly prioritization
of criminal cases. His refusal to meaningfully assist the court is a complete
abdication of his professional, ethical and legal responsibility to keep
our community safe.
Another consequence of Pacheco's poor leadership is poor office morale.
Within a few months of Pacheco taking office, dozens of the office's
most experienced lawyers began leaving, and more than 90 veteran prosecutors
-- over one-third of the office -- have now departed. The flight of talented
prosecutors during Pacheco's term is directly related to his management style.
The grand jury noted that the district attorney's office is marked
by a pervasive culture of fear and intimidation based on the perception
that Pacheco punishes lawyers with whom he disagrees. It's time to
put an end to this mismanagement.
We have also seen Judge Paul Zellerbach serve Riverside County for more
than 32 years: 22 years in the Riverside County District Attorney's
Office, and 10 years as a tough and fair judge. Paul Zellerbach offers
hope for positive change in conviction rates, the responsible setting
of priorities and the overall promotion of public safety, while saving
Too much damage
By now, most everyone is familiar with Pacheco's comment that "any
prosecutor can convict the guilty, but it takes a great prosecutor to
convict the innocent." Even if uttered in jest, this statement is
patently offensive to our values and reflects again his unsuitability
Pacheco's consistent failure to accept responsibility for the damage
done to his office and our community is no longer acceptable. It is for
these reasons that we have withdrawn our support for Rod Pacheco and now
strongly endorse Paul Zellerbach for district attorney.