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2010 District Attorney Q&A with Joyce Dudley

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?

Joyce Dudley
Joyce Dudley

JOYCE DUDLEY: A lot of people would like this campaign to be characterized as “personal” since it makes for good political theater. But this campaign is, and always has been, about what is best to ensure public safety and which candidate will best represent the interests of the residents of Santa Barbara County. My campaign has focused on the issues important to the voters of this county. However, since it has been decades since two members of the DA’s Office have vied for the job, a different dynamic certainly has resulted.

All of the attorneys in the District Attorney’s Office who have endorsed my opponent were under his supervision at the time of their endorsements. I have not asked any of the attorneys in the office to endorse me, but many have.

The employees in the District Attorney’s Office are professionals first; they continue to do their jobs and do them well, despite what you may be hearing. This is especially true for our professional support staff. I am very proud to have received the endorsement of the DA support staff via the union that represents them, SEIU Local 620, the same union that supports the courts professional support staff.

That being said, it has been a difficult couple of years. (Former District Attorney) Christie Stanley’s battle with cancer and her subsequent passing has been something no one in our office ever expected to deal with. Our office and our court system personnel stepped up during this time and continued to perform the excellent work our residents demand from us. I know that after this election is over this excellence will continue. Politics has never trumped public safety in the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, and under my watch it never will.

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

JD: Aside from being a successful prosecutor for the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office over the past 20 years, I have run two countywide agencies — one with more than 100 employees and complex budgets. In addition to my bachelor’s degree and law degree, I have two master’s degrees in education, one of those in administration. My diverse professional experience and educational background, along with my long, successful career as a prosecutor provide me with the unique set of skills needed to deal with the administrative challenges the next district attorney will face.

Being district attorney isn’t just about a few lines on a resume or being a successful prosecutor. A countywide elected official must be vested in our community in ways that transcend the office.

Our district attorney has an obligation to be involved in Santa Barbara County. She or he must have relationships countywide and must have earned the respect of county residents. I have been doing this for the past 35 years.

I have a well-documented history of community involvement and volunteerism. I am proud of the awards I have received for my leadership and dedication to making Santa Barbara a better place to live and work.

My opponent does not have the depth of professional experience or the deep community involvement that I have. These are among the reasons that I am uniquely qualified to be your next district attorney.

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

JD: Caseloads have gone up significantly over the past several years. In part this was due to the loss of key senior prosecutors through retirement who have yet to be replaced. Caseloads have also increased due to the increase in crime. The budget cuts have required us to fight more crime with less of everything.

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

JD: People throughout our county have experienced the impacts of the state’s economic crisis — from working families to government agencies. These budgetary pressures have made the job of public-safety officials more challenging due to the correlation between increased economic pressures and increase in crime.

We do not yet know the actual statistical impact of the state’s early release program, but it has forced us to think of different ways to do business. I have several ideas about how to efficiently address the challenges ahead. I am endorsed by Sheriff Bill Brown and I believe his endorsement reflects my collaborative approach to public safety and my commitment to working with our agency partners to reduce costs without sacrificing public safety.

Additionally, Sheriff Brown and I are committed to a re-entry program that will help those released from prison, early or not, to become productive members of society and will keep them from returning to the system. Such a program will help with jail overcrowding, but most important it will help to reduce the number of people who re-offend after serving prison time. Today, the number of re-offenders is greater than 70 percent.

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?

JD: I would not characterize it as a “perception.” The rise in violent crime countywide and the rise in sexual-related and other crimes is very real. We face serious problems because of this.

There are many things the District Attorney’s Office can do to help reduce and prevent crime. Criminal gang behavior cannot be tolerated. To stop gang violence and intimidation there must be a comprehensive approach, which should at a minimum, include education, intervention and incarceration.

Education — Age appropriate, anti-gang education must be made available to all residents of our county, in a variety of locations, including elementary schools, after-school programs and faith-based programs. Additionally, children should be encouraged to embrace healthy alternatives to gang membership, such as music, art, athletics, crafts, writing and community service activities.

Intervention — Should anti-community/gang activity occur, there must be individualized and swift intervention with predictable, appropriate and consistent consequences. Whenever possible, the offender’s family should be included in this intervention.

Incarceration — Those who participate in gang violence must be incarcerated for their criminal behavior; the length of their incarceration must be commensurate with the crime, as well as with the individual’s criminal history.

With respect to the gang injunctions, I believe they are a useful tool if they are well written and appropriately executed.

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

JD: As a candidate for the position of chief law enforcement officer for Santa Barbara County I can not support the legalization of marijuana and the influx of marijuana dispensaries. Although I have heard good arguments to support the legalization of marijuana, I have seen firsthand how marijuana can result in an increase in crime in our community. Hence, I cannot support its legalization.

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?

JD: I think that both responses were inadequate. As district attorney I will establish an arson unit consisting of an attorney and an investigator, both of whom are already on our payroll. This team will be well educated in arson investigation and prosecution. This team will be prepared to immediately work with any fire agency to thoroughly and effectively cooperate in the investigation and potential prosecution of arson crimes. Further, this process will be done in a timely fashion.

Finally, I will personally ensure that appropriate communication with the community and the media occurs throughout this process.

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

JD: As district attorney, violent crimes as well as predator crimes that affect our most vulnerable victims will be given the highest priorities.

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

JD: The role of the district attorney is to enforce the law. While it is my hope that our community faces no crimes so heinous that we may have to consider implementing this law, the reality is that such a case may well occur during the term of the next district attorney. I feel a better question is: In what instances do you feel the death penalty is the appropriate punishment?

I have been faced a few times with cases in which the death penalty was discussed; ultimately each case resulted in each defendant being sentenced to a life sentence. The District Attorney’s Office has, and will continue to, carefully discussed these cases to decide what is in the best interest of justice. The office takes this responsibility extremely seriously and as your next district attorney I will look at each case individually to determine what is in the best interest of public safety, our community and justice.

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?

JD: As a dedicated fan of Law & Order I would whole heartedly support — Dom dom dom dom dom dom SQUAWK!

Additional Resources

Click here for Joyce Dudley’s campaign Web site

Click here for district attorney candidate Josh Lynn’s answers.

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