◼ Unsustainable workload?; DA to continue prosecuting misdemeanors, says employees are overworked - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said his office will continue prosecuting most misdemeanor cases, though he warned his prosecutors' workloads are completely unsustainable with current staffing levels.
Back in May, Gallegos told local law enforcement chiefs that his office might not be able to continue prosecuting nonviolent misdemeanor cases for charges like drunk in public, driving without a license and disturbing the peace due to what he deemed an unmanageable caseload and an ever tightening budget. But Gallegos said recently that he's decided to stay the course and to continue prosecuting the low-level offenses.
”We'll keep doing it as long as we can,” he said. “And that's for two reasons: First, my attorneys are dedicated to this community, and they want to keep doing them. Second, this community expects it of us.”
Attorneys in the district attorney's office are carrying heavy workloads compared to some neighboring counties and national caseload recommendations put forward by the American Bar Association.
In 2009, the last year for which Department of Justice statistics are available, local law enforcement agencies sought criminal complaints from the district attorney's office for 1,980 felony arrests and 5,506 misdemeanor arrests. Those cases were ultimately reviewed and tried by the 11 attorneys in the district attorney's office, a number that includes Gallegos and Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel, who have a host of duties in addition to prosecuting cases.
Even if the caseload was divided equally among the 11 attorneys, the numbers far outpace the American Bar Associations recommendation that prosecutors handle no more than 150 felony cases or 300 misdemeanor cases in a year, with each Humboldt County prosecutor handling 180 felony cases and 500 misdemeanor cases....
With Gallegos and Neel spending most of their time outside the courtroom -- Gallegos handling administrative duties and Neel handling all the office's charging decisions -- that leaves six prosecutors. Two of those handle all the office's 5,000 or so misdemeanor cases a year. The remaining four handle almost all of the office's felony cases -- almost 2,000 a year.
”Everyone's overworked,” Gallegos said, adding that he and his attorneys don't have the luxury of a 40-hour workweek and that everyone brings cases home to prepare on nights and weekends.
What's missing, Thadeus, is the WHY. What happened to the county's top, experienced prosecutors? WHY are they missing?
Why? Because Gallegos "lost," fired, or drove them away.
And the grants? What happened to the grants?
◼ Question, really, is "Who's left?" w/update