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2010 District Attorney Q&A with Josh Lynn

NOOZHAWK: Candidly, this campaign seems to be as personal as it is political. How will you stabilize the District Attorney’s Office and convey a sense of leadership and direction for both the public and prosecutors?

Josh Lynn
Josh Lynn

JOSH LYNN: My office is not particularly divided on this campaign. A few people in the office support my opponent, the vast majority do not. Leadership is demonstrated by being fair, honest and consistent. I have demonstrated those traits for almost 15 years as a prosecutor and administrator. I have earned the trust of those who have done this difficult and important job and the people I supervise. I will heal the office after a difficult three years filled with tragedy, budget cuts and the death of a true leader. I am focused, experienced and fiercely committed to this office and its people. I have demonstrated this by my actions. I worked closely with (former District Attorneys) Tom Sneddon and Christie Stanley and have great respect for their dedication, ethics and professionalism in the face of political pressure to act otherwise.

When my opponent came out against our terminally ill boss, when she undermined our law-enforcement mission by giving information that amounted to nothing more than rumor and innuendo to the media about the district attorney and her illness, many of us in the office felt violated, disappointed and frustrated that Mrs. Dudley would trade on the tragic illness of our boss to advance her own unlimited ambition. The morale in the office suffered because Mrs. Stanley was gravely ill; we all respected her and her three decades of public service and worried she would be taken from us in the prime of her career. Many of those concerns came true. I am proud to have called Christie Stanley a friend and mentor and to have been asked by her to lead the District Attorney’s Office countywide during a very tough time, and now, well into the future.

My opponent has refused to state publicly that she would not punish anyone in the office who may have backed me in this election. I have made this pledge about her supporters and asked her to do the same for mine for almost eight months now. (She has now attempted to back track). Further, when Mrs. Dudley stated she would seriously consider firing me if she prevailed, many, many people in our community felt this was a very bad sign of things to come. I will heal this office by continuing to lead without ego, to assign positions and cases where public safety will best be served, and to focus on crime and our important role as protectors of our citizens. I continue to supervise every attorney in the South County during this election and to remain in the office where possible rather than take six weeks off to campaign during a time when our office needs leadership and help; my opponent is no longer working.

This is NOT a personal campaign it is one about the safety of our larger community in Santa Barbara County. In order for my opponent to avoid addressing many facts surrounding her professional history, she has simply said I have been negative. My campaign has done nothing but completely and honestly quoted judges and others whose observations of my opponent’s conduct are an example of her professional shortcomings. The only negative aspect of that is my opponent’s behavior leading to these serious issues.

NOOZHAWK: What makes you uniquely qualified to take on an administrative and political leadership role as DA?

JL: I have been leading or co-leading the South County office for a long time now. I am the only one running for this office who has been the acting district attorney, meaning I have run the District Attorney’s Offices in the North, South and in Lompoc. I am the only one running who has been responsible for our $17 million budget, staffing courtrooms and setting policy for the offices countywide. I have the faith and trust of the people who have lead this office for the last 28 years and know what it takes. I have been a prosecutor for almost 15 years. In that time I have been the head of the Domestic Violence Unit, handled gang cases for many years exclusively, and have handled many of this county’s most complex and high-profile cases. I have a perfect ethical record in court and out.

I understand the unique needs of this office from every angle and have the unique advantage of coupling that knowledge with the fact that I am a Santa Barbara native and have lived here nearly all my life. I am stable, steady and ready to continue leading the District Attorney’s Office with the dignity befitting this important position.

NOOZHAWK: How have county budget cuts affected District Attorney’s Office caseloads?

JL: Because of massive cuts to the District Attorney’s Office’s budget, coupled with increased efficiencies in law enforcement’s apprehension of gang members and other violent criminals, the average DA’s caseload has risen dramatically. We have caseloads that are larger than any other office in the state of California. This is unacceptable from a public safety standpoint as there is a breaking point and we are at it. Those on the Board of Supervisors who chose to prioritize other departments over our public safety mission are the same politicians who support my opponent for this election. It will be impossible for her to demand proper law enforcement resources and pay back that political capital at the same time; public safety will lose to her political need to pay back those who helped her.

When the “golden parachute” retirement offers were made to senior deputies in my office, many long-time deputies retired and were not replaced. This caused the increase in caseloads and the inability to give serious cases the attention they must have to keep our quality of life here. My opponent simply says let’s give more cases to our deputies rather than ask for a restoration of safety resources; this is both dangerous and lacks leadership showing she is aware of her political debt. I will make certain our resources are restored and, as the only one running who understands our complicated budget process, I will do so right away. The future looks bright indeed through the hard work on the budget this year for next year’s cycle. I was a part of that team and I am proud to say we made great strides toward restoration and bettering public safety.

NOOZHAWK: Have state budget pressures had an effect? What has been the local impact of the state’s early release program for inmates?

JL: Our county budget is directly related to the state budget. We are 92 percent salaries and benefits at the District Attorney’s Office. When we lose money, we lose deputies. The state budget woes have directly affected the $7 million portion of our budget in that we rely on certain revenue from the state to supplement our General Fund money from the county. The early inmate release program will likely result in between 1,400 and 1,800 parolees returning to our community early. With a 70 percent rate of return back to jail or prison, it is clear many will become a part of our local court system again soon and need housing at our jail. This is another impact of the state’s budget shortfall and must be addressed by prioritizing prosecutions here at the local level and getting cases through an inefficient system much faster.

NOOZHAWK: There’s a perception that gang- and drug-related violence is on the rise at both ends of the county. What can the District Attorney’s Office do to help gain control of the situation? Are gang injunctions an effective solution?

JL: The newly elected District Attorney MUST be experienced in gang crime, gang injunctions and solutions. I am the only one in the race with that experience. Violent gang crime has been on the rise but this problem can be addressed successfully with proper resources.

The solution is twofold. First, we must address the problem in our schools by reinstating our truancy program to reach kids before they become gang affected, part of the juvenile system and then the adult system as hard-core gang members. We can and must as a community reach these kids and show them a better way.

Second, we must properly suppress gang violence by partnering with other agencies and the federal government to dismantle large gang organizations. Gator Roll was an operation in which I was very involved and was a tremendous success here in Santa Barbara. Similar partnerships must be formed in the North County as well. Drugs and gangs go hand in hand and must be dealt with as an overall strategy. We must keep drugs out of schools first.

Gang injunctions can help to keep young kids from being in gangs and from being victimized by gang members. Gang injunctions can be one great tool in the tool bag but will not solve the gang problem. If done efficiently and fairly, this tool will help to prevent violence and to show young kids who are drifting toward a gang life that alternatives are available. We must take violent gang members off the street and we must have a district attorney who truly understands this problem and its solutions; I am proud to be that person.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the legalization of marijuana? As a prosecutor, do you have an opinion on medical marijuana dispensaries?

JL: Marijuana dispensaries are for the most part illegal. The fact, however, is that medicinal marijuana is legal in California and so the real question for the district attorney is clarity. My office must have clarity on the law and understand that those who operate outside of it, providing this drug to our children in the high schools and making huge profits from storefronts, will be prosecuted. The medicinal marijuana law was not designed to make drug dealing legal, only to provide an avenue for those who truly need the drug to have safe access to it.

NOOZHAWK: The District Attorney’s Office responses to the Jesusita and Tea fires were very different. Which response do you think was more appropriate, and why?

JL: The Tea Fire response was proper in that the right charges were filed after extensive analysis. The problem was that the district attorney did not let the public know what stage we were in during the investigation and did not properly communicate with the public. Ten young people’s lives were potentially going to be changed forever. This was a decision that had to be arrived at after careful analysis. We were under a moral and legal obligation to get it done right, not quickly. My opponent often criticizes this process and many others about which she simply has no knowledge and was not entrusted to analyze. I changed the process to speed it up where possible and inform the public at all times while addressing the Jesusita Fire. During that long investigation, my office let the public know what stage we were in, when the public could expect answers, and how, importantly, these fires could be avoided in the future.

NOOZHAWK: Under your leadership, what would be the District Attorney’s Office’s enforcement priority?

JL: Our priorities while I am the district attorney will be violent crime, gangs, career criminals and youth who are involved in the criminal justice system. I will keep this community safe by dismantling gangs and addressing youth problems at their public root; in the schools and youth centers while we have an opportunity to change these young people into productive members of the public. This will, in the long run, prove to be the best use of limited resources. I promise efficiency and effectiveness in my office.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the death penalty? Why or why not?

JL: The district attorney must enforce the law, not attempt to rewrite it. The death penalty, along with the potential of charging youth as adults, are the most important and most difficult decisions we make. Each must continue to be done on a case by case basis with an eye toward consistency and fairness.

NOOZHAWK: We’ve all watched To Kill a Mockingbird, Legally Blonde or one of the endless Law & Order series TV shows and seen a prosecutor rise and declare, “I object!” Wouldn’t it be more exciting to use a hawk scream instead? Especially one sponsored by Noozhawk?

[Noozhawk’s note: Candidate did not respond.]

Additional Resources

Click here for Josh Lynn’s campaign Web site

Click here to for district attorney candidate Joyce Dudley’s answers.

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