Mudslinging is thick in the race for Santa Barbara District Attorney (April 21 2010)


Staff member
by Annandale DeVin

A quick Google search for Joyce Dudley will tell you that the race for District Attorney will be everything but uneventful. A website has been posted and paid for by Joshua Lynn for DA 2010 Campaign that lists all the wrongdoings and misconduct of Dudley. In her defense, Steve Balash, defense attorney, has been noted as saying that “allegations of misconduct are commonplace in criminal law”.

One particular case became the cornerstone of controversy when Judge Pat McMahon ordered a new trial after the jury had already declared a guilty verdict, citing “multiple instances of prosecutorial excess.” McMahon stated that “she endeavored to overzealously obtain a conviction at any cost and without regard to rules of law, evidence, or ethical probity.” Though his ruling was upheld by the state, Dudley insisted that is was not due to transgression.

The DA office was most recently held by Christie Stanley, who scalded Dudley in telling of her “zealous ‘win at any cost’ approach.” She also stated that “her problems with playing fair are…well-known and documented.” To that, Balash replies, “Why the hell did she keep getting assigned cases and getting promotions…? If the DA thought they had a rogue prosecutor guilty of misconduct, why the hell did they appeal McMahon’s ruling?”

Stanley’s discontent with Dudley began to unfold when Dudley announced her intent to run for District Attorney before Stanley had the opportunity to declare that she will not seek reelection. Shortly thereafter, Stanley endorsed Joshua Lynn, who was the department’s chief trial deputy, and appointed him to replace her in her absence, as she was stepping down due to health reasons. Though Stanley strongly suggested to the county supervisory board that they should not replace him as acting DA, they decided that her replacement should be neither Lynn nor Dudley, but instead chose Ann Bramsen.

This mudslinging is something normally not seen in the DA’s Office, at least not in Santa Barbara. It “has been immune from this sort of internal brawling” for 30 years. Hilary Dozer and Ron Zonen, both life-long prosecutors, claim that Lynn is guilty of “unfounded” attacks on Dudley.

The role of prosecutor is of extreme importance in the U.S. Justice system. They are the ones who control the outcome of cases. Says a local resident, they need to be “the most ethical, detail oriented, fair-minded, legal scholars we have.” If a prosecutor is anything but, it is the victims who suffer, being wrongly accused of crimes due to the overzealous nature intended to simply further one’s career, as well as society, when dangerous criminals are freed due to prosecutorial misconduct.

It is the duty of the voter to ensure that the right candidate wins the seat. Though ethics belongs in every position and office of government, the role of DA is of extreme importance because they hold the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting political corruption. If they themselves are not ethical, then who can be to blame…except perhaps the voters who allowed this to happen? The responsibility for ethics rests with the voters.