Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2004 / 2 Adar, 5764
Why term limits for district attorneys make no sense and why voters should have more confidence in themselves to vote out someone they don't like
Last month it became official. After the Colorado Supreme Court weighed in, all district attorneys in Colorado will now have to step down after serving two terms or a total of eight years. So rather than having experience seasoned prosecutors leading the effort to put criminals away, more than half of the D.A.s will soon be novices. Many defense attorneys will be old pros who know the judges and the system, but not so for the prosecutors.
Now the voters really have no one to blame but themselves. After extending term limits to many government officials in 1994, the D.A.s took the issue to the voter directly, asking them to exclude district attorneys. By a margin of 2-1, the measure failed making Colorado the first state in the nation to restrict the time elected prosecutors can serve. It sounds good cleaning house so that new blood can come in, allowing deputy D.A.s to rise up. But prosecuting criminals is not like other political positions.
The number one priority should be having the best and brightest, making the tough calls D.A.s make every day whether they've been there two years or 20. For many of them, it's a sacrifice to take a D.A. job. They give up the opportunity to build a client base. The money is generally far less than one can make in private practice. Now some may be even more reluctant to run knowing it is just a pit stop. And some of the rank and file leave with the outgoing D.A. when a new one comes in.
Is that really worth it? It's not that the voters have keep the guy there or woman there. If they don't like the D.A. they can vote him or her out. Look, I don't like term limits. They presume voters can't think for themselves. But I like them even less for district attorneys. Sure, elected D.A.s are to some extent political. That's not a good enough reason to lose all the benefits of all their experience.
When cleaning house means giving the bad guys even a tiny edge, I'd rather keep the house dirty.
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