Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part III

DA Krasner should hang tough against calls for transparency in firings

(Photo Left) Adjusting his staff to better meet his vision of justice is the DA's perrogative, and a tough job. 

“The coach gets to pick the team.” You have to give our new district attorney credit for not buckling to the hue and cry from editorial boards in the wake of his mass firings earlier this month. Here’s how the Inky Ed. Board viewed DA Krasner’s move to fire nearly 10 percent of his attorneys in one fell swoop: “Victims of crimes, witnesses and people accused, along with judges and defense attorneys, were left in a lurch in city courtrooms when prosecutors expected to play their part in our criminal justice system were suddenly yanked from those roles, with no replacements ready.


And Krasner? He waited four days to explain his actions. When he finally found his voice, our new district attorney favored semantics over transparency.


Nobody had been fired, Krasner explained. They had been asked to resign. … Krasner’s problems arise not from the action, but from the lack of preparation for the reaction. He must have known the disruption would affect pending cases. That’s problematic, especially for one who promised to seek justice for victims. … He pledged disruption, competence and transparency. One out of three is a disappointing start for a politician who presented himself as an agent for ‘criminal justice reform.’”


Oh, boo hoo!


Pardon us if we don’t share the editorial outcry over a lack of transparency into DA Krasner’s decision making process over who to hire and who to fire. We’ll take the DA at his word: that the lawyers fired in the DA’s office didn’t share his vision of a prosecutor’s office that cares more about justice than it does convictions.


What the Inky would like to see is Krasner defend his firings on a case-by-case basis. Such transparency would amount to a shifting of the burden onto Krasner, forcing him to defend each firing against his standards of changing the culture of his office. If he buckled to this transparency trap, the DA would have to provide specific acts of conduct that he objected to and, in his mind, created the culture he wants to do away with.


We have provided two instances of conduct that well meet the cultural corruption worthy of dismissal: Porngate emails on public computers being exchanged by lawyers, which created an environment of sexual harassment in the state Attorney General’s office; an ADA who chose to prosecute African-American legislators in the face of evidence that they were racially targeted.


But to require DA Krasner to defend each firing against a cultural standard would be to place a human resources burden upon him that no corporate CEO would, or should, tolerate.


So, the Inky has now submitted a Right-To-Know letter to the DA’s office requesting a list of names of those fired; a request that Krasner’s office has responded to in turn by requesting a 30-day extension. As experts in the arcana of government transparency laws have opined, the DA will have to turn over the names.


But imagine the questions that will arise from the publication of these names. What exactly is the conduct that would leave the DA to determine that a former ADA was part of the culture DA Krasner wants to do away with? Did an ADA withhold exculpatory evidence in a murder trial? Did an ADA turn a blind eye to a police interrogation that crossed the line?


Which is why DA Krasner made the smart move of asking his ADAs to submit letters of resignation, which he could accept or reject, rather than fire them. This the Inky Ed. Board calls “favor[ing] semantics over transparency.” In fact, this move allows Krasner to avoid the case-by-case analysis of his firings; an analysis that would only undermine the bold move to disrupt the culture of conviction and incarceration he campaigned against.


We know that the call for transparency in government is a hallmark of editorial board writing. We understand that we may be an outlier in championing a DA who chooses to keep his personnel decisions to himself. But when you are trying to change the culture of an institution, sometimes sacrifices must be made. Sacrificing transparency for the greater good of a more just District Attorney’s Office seems to us a sacrifice worth making.



  Porngate Claims Its Newest Victim, Part III

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