The Times Standard
◼ Paul Gallegos for district attorney
The role of district attorney is a complex one which demands a balance between two sometimes conflicting interests -- a community's sense of justice and the rules of the legal system, which are often a mystery to those unfamiliar with the process.
Current District Attorney Paul Gallegos has certainly shown lapses in judgment, in our opinion, with his penchant for hanging major cases on legal minutiae or rarely cited law, including the unsuccessful ones filed against Palco, former Fortuna Councilwoman Debi August and former Eureka Police Chief David Douglas and Lt. Tony Zanotti.
Those were unneeded distractions that took already strained resources away from what should be the office's main focus -- criminal cases.
We hope that Gallegos learned his lesson, and he appears more recently to have moderated his tone and grown into the office.
There's no doubt Gallegos brought the office into the 21st century and assembled a crack investigative team, which has solved several cold cases, including the murder of Curtis Huntzinger after nearly two decades, finally bringing closure to the boy's family.
While we have concerns about Gallegos, we also have reservations about the ability of Allison Jackson or Paul Hagen to step into the job. Jackson's passion for victims' rights is apparent and admirable, but cannot be a main focus of the office.
She especially, however, has raised several legitimate issues, including the way major criminal cases are assigned and a need to keep families informed as they navigate their way through the complex legal process.
Gallegos would do well to listen.
Right. Withholding exculpatory evidence is "hanging major cases on legal minutiae."
Charging people without the evidence to back it up is "legal minutiae."
Cases thrown out because he had the law wrong, had no basis in the law at all is "legal minutiae."
Here's one of the TS's PRIOR editorials:
Times-Standard editorial - Paul Gallegos
☛ TS Gallegos' case management
Humboldt County and its District Attorney Paul Gallegos have been through a lot together. When Humboldt County voters decided to oust longtime incumbent Terry Farmer in favor of the young surfer DA, it was with an eye on cultivating some fresh blood and adding an infusion of vigor and energy in the District Attorney's Office.
It was hoped that Gallegos would bring a new perspective, and challenge that status quo.
Gallegos has done that -- he's challenged entrenched powers, and he's certainly shaken up things in Humboldt County.
The problem, though, is that nearly every major undertaking by Gallegos has ended in failure, and with each of those has come a colossal waste of time and resources, as well as an increasingly divided community.
Whereas it was initially hoped that Gallegos would bring the community together by progressively representing the bulk of the county's voters, instead he has sponsored division and rancor in nearly everything he's touched.
The case against Pacific Lumber Co., which led to a huge battle in the community that included a recall effort against Gallegos? Dismissed. The case against Fortuna Councilwoman Debi August? The same.
The case against former Chief Dave Douglas and Lt. Tony Zanotti? Dismissed.
In hindsight, we fear that with each of these cases, Gallegos has tried to live up to his own progressive legend at the expense of critical thinking.
At times, Gallegos tries to hang major cases on legal minutiae, or rarely cited bits of law, that leave other legal scholars scratching their heads. Given the preeminence of his position, and the fact that he's gambling with public chips, he needs to proceed much more carefully in his remaining time in office.
He has wasted resources, directing attention away from his office's main task -- criminal cases -- and woefully divided the community with very little if anything to show.
This newspaper endorsed Gallegos in his last election, a decision we stand by given his competition at the time. But our support, and that of the public, will be much harder to earn the next time around, given that Gallegos sometimes appears too interested in attracting headlines for filing major cases that he almost invariably loses.
If he doesn't change his stripes and fast, a loss at the polls for Gallegos may be the only victory he can secure for the rest of us.