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Death penalty foes urge care in replacing DA

Death-penalty opponents have taken up a call begun by local officials last week for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to take more time and care in appointing a replacement for District Attorney Tom Orloff.

The Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty — which includes local League of Women Voters chapters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Death Penalty Focus, and various religious congregations — will ask the Board at its meeting tomorrow “to implement a fair, open and transparent process for selecting an interim District Attorney,” according to its news release. The Board has placed “consideration” of the appointment on the agenda but not made public what process, if any, will be used to select an interim appointee; Orloff urged the board last week to appoint Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to succeed him, saying she’s the most qualified and knowledgable person to deal with the office’s issues.

“Our concern is with the process for filling a vacancy caused by an incumbent resigning a few months before an election,” Marion Taylor of the League of Women Voters in Oakland said in the coalition’s release. “By appointing someone now, they create a different race for the office when it comes up for election.”

“The interim District Attorney will have the authority to make key decisions, such as seeking the death penalty rather than permanent imprisonment, which costs the county millions of additional tax dollars,” said Stefanie Faucher of Death Penalty Focus. “The Board needs to consider the serious consequences of this decision for the people of Alameda County.”

“Appointing an interim District Attorney is one of the most important duties delegated to the Board of Supervisors and it is not a decision that should be made behind closed doors,” said Natasha Minsker of the Northern California ACLU. “We are asking the Board to implement a fair, open and transparent process to ensure that Alameda County residents can know how this critical decision will be made.”

The coalition says 67 community groups have adopted its resolution calling for the District Attorney to stop pursing death sentences, and more than 1,500 individuals have signed its petition.

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Rocky hearing ahead for proposed DA appointee?

As reported here earlier, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff announced his resignation this week, urging the Board of Supervisors to appoint Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley as his replacement as soon as this coming week. This, of course, would let O’Malley have more than nine months as in incumbent before she must win an election to keep the post next year.

But at least one local official isn’t comfortable with what some have called an “appoint-and-annoint” succession. I just received a note said to have been forwarded from Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, urging people to come out and be heard on this.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors will appoint a new District Attorney Tuesday, September 15, 2009, at 9:00 am. The item is #8A on their agenda. They appear set to appoint Nancy O’Malley at the request of Tom Orloff.

This is an elected position. While the Board has the authority to appoint; it should only do so pursuant to a public process. In the instant case they are making an appointment with less than a week’s public notice and without a public process.

We need to pack the Board chambers on Tuesday and demand a public process for the selection process. Please help turn out as many people as you can. This position is too important for them to make this appointment in secret.

Let me know what you can do to help.

Thanks so much.

Desley

Brooks was among a few local officials who have rallied with those protesting the New Year’s Day slaying of Oscar Grant III by then-BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle; Orloff took heat from those protestors for waiting two weeks after the shooting to charge Mehserle with murder, and is still under fire from some for not also charging Officer Tony Pirone, who also was involved the fracas that led up to the shooting. I see Brooks attended at least one meeting at which an effort to recall Orloff was discussed; it’s not surprising she wants to slow down his hand-picked successor’s appointment.

UPDATE @ 9:17 P.M. FRIDAY: Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan concurs, according to an e-mail I received from her about an hour ago.

I also agree, that it is essential that there be a rational and fair process to fill the position of Alameda County District Attorney. Particularly given that the D.A. is an elected position, and also how important the role of the DA is, for our ability to improve public safety and restore public trust of police and prosecutors here in our city, and ensure protection from crime.

My view, in support of a fair process, is NOT based on supporting, or opposing, any particular potential candidate for the job — but rather, given the extreme importance of this job, it seems essential to at least have a selection procedure that is fair and coherent.

We are talking about giving someone a job in which they literally hold the power of life and death over people — surely choosing someone for such a role should require NO LESS of a process than is required to get a job — any job. To just appoint someone on Tuesday, with no process, and without allowing anyone to apply, would mean someone is chosen for a role of incredible importance and responsibility without even as much process as it takes to get a job at Burger King — and without even as much process as it takes to get an endorsement from a political club when running for office.

In terms of Solutions to this problem, I could envision two options:

1) Like with Senator Kennedy’s seat, appoint a “caretaker” for the interim, on the basis of it being a person who WILL NOT RUN for the seat, and therefore, this would allow an open and fair election next year.

2) If option 1 doesn’t seam viable, then AT LEAST if the Board of Supervisors is going to take their Power to Select someone for this incredibly important position, there should at least be a reasonable application and selection process. People must be allowed to apply, be interviewed, etc, and then a selection made on a fair basis.

FOR EXAMPLE: When AC Transit Board fills a mid-term vacancy (as recently happened when I left AC Transit to join the Oakland City Council) there is a process which includes an application period and application packet and interviews, etc. This should be the least we should expect in the process of selecting a D.A.

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Alameda County DA resigns

The Contra Costa Times reported today that Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff unexpectedly resigned and he has recommended the Board of Supervisors appoint in his place Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.

Is the law a genetic condition?

O’Malley is the daughter of former Contra Costa County Judge Bill O’Malley, the sister of Contra Costa District Attorney candidate Dan O’Malley and sister-in-law to Contra Costa Presiding Judge Mary Ann O’Malley.

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Barbara Lee supports OPD probe of BART shooting

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued this statement tonight, hours after Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums declared that the Oakland Police Department will join the Alameda County District Attorney‘s office in investigating the shooting death of Oscar Grant III, 22, of Hayward, who died after being shot by a BART police officer while at the Fruitvale BART station in the wee hours of New Year’s Day:

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Oscar Grant as they grieve the loss of their loved one. They deserve our support and assistance during this difficult period.

“I am pleased to learn that the Oakland Police Department is being brought in to conduct an independent, third-party investigation of this horrific incident. Hopefully, the Oakland Police Department will conduct a swift and thorough investigation into Oscar’s tragic death. I have communicated with Mayor Ron Dellums and the family’s attorney John Burris to offer my assistance.

“Our community is rightfully outraged by this deplorable act. We have a duty and a right to peacefully protest in an effort to seek justice. However in Oscar’s memory, let us not create more violence. Rather, we should continue to exercise our right to assemble peacefully as we seek answers to this deplorable act. We should also continue to insist that the investigation into the shooting be thorough and expeditious.”