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Do You Think the CoCo DA is Doing a Good Job?

A profile in an East Bay weekly gives Mark Peterson decent marks for starting to clean up a troubled shop. The DA says he needs more money to keep good prosecutors.

Two years into the job, the former Concord city councilman at the head of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office is making slow progress reforming an agency with a reputation for cronyism and bad behavior.

That’s the assessment of a profile of Mark Peterson in a recent issue of the East Bay Express, which casts a reform-minded liberal against an Old Boys network unwilling to let go of power without a fight. At the heart of the piece is Peterson’s efforts to make advancement for prosecutors more transparent.

The DA’s office still uses an unusual and controversial cost-saving method that puts lawyers on contract for three year stints, after which time they are hired or the contract is not renewed. Critics have said that the system rewards sycophants and sends smart lawyers looking for better places to practice.

In January, Peterson’s office provided its own self-assessment to the Board of Supervisors. The report noted that at 92 percent, Contra Costa boasts the highest felony conviction rate in the Bay Area.

But the report also warned that if the office's lawyers aren't paid more, prosecutions in the county could suffer: It is absolutely essential that the salaries of all of our prosecutors be increased to be more competitive.  Otherwise, we will simply be the “training ground” for other prosecuting agencies; we will lose our very best, most experienced prosecutors; and our prosecution efforts  discussed above will suffer.

Chris Nicholson February 07, 2013 at 01:31 AM
@DTW: agree that it might be.a win, as long as DA is paying "market prices" in terms of plea "discounts" to typical sentences on conviction after trial. This of course is hard to benchmark.
Andrew L. February 07, 2013 at 04:56 AM
It is not the comparison between one day and 10 years that matters, it is the comparison between 10 years and 15 years. There is no causative link between increased rates of incarceration (and lengthier prison terms) and an overall reduction in criminal activity (obviously, if you imprison a criminal until he dies, he will not commit any more crimes). Instead, it is the type and intensity of policing that is key.
Andrew L. February 07, 2013 at 04:58 AM
According to the press, the real problem with the Contra Costa County D.A.'s office is a lack of morality and ethics, which, if true, is troubling.
Dive Turn Work February 07, 2013 at 05:37 AM
It has certainly had various trouble with its employees. I used this to get out of jury duty so I can't complain too much.
Linda Meza February 08, 2013 at 01:33 PM
I didn't really have an opinion until I watched (via video http://martinez.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=914) Mr. Peterson address the Martinez City Council, I have to admit I'm impressed.

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