Deputy District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a hard-nosed prosecutor with 24 years of experience, is the clear choice to replace her boss, District Attorney Jan Scully, who is stepping down after 20 years in office.
However, The Bee’s editorial board endorsement is not without qualifiers. If she wins, Schubert would need to show that she is her own person, independent from Scully, who has endorsed her.
A Republican seeking the nonpartisan office, Schubert takes views contrary to many stands taken by this board. She is, for example, critical of Gov. Jerry Brown’s criminal justice realignment and a skeptic of Proposition 36, the 2012 initiative that rolled back some aspects of the “three strikes” sentencing law. She helped draft a pending initiative that could increase the use of the death penalty in California.
However, Schubert promises to make realignment and Proposition 36 work, and says she would use the death penalty sparingly.
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Most importantly, she has significant management and courtroom experience and is supported by prosecutors she seeks to lead. Running the District Attorney’s Office is not an academic exercise. Experience matters.
Schubert’s opponents are California Deputy Attorney General Maggy Krell and Todd Leras, a former Sacramento County deputy district attorney and assistant U.S. attorney.
Leras has an impressive résumé, is well-regarded among lawyers who know him and has the experience to do the job. However, he is running a halfhearted campaign, raising little money, not providing a candidate statement for the official ballot pamphlet and not knocking on voters’ doors.
Krell has received endorsements from Democratic organizations and politicians including Attorney General Kamala Harris, Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assemblymen Richard Pan and Roger Dickinson. But she lacks experience and notable support among people who know the criminal court system the best, the attorneys who work there.
Leras and Krell would shake up the office. However, many insiders, including prominent defense attorneys, say the District Attorney’s Office is not a broken institution.
The race will be decided on June 3, if one of the candidates receives 50 percent of the vote plus one. Failing that, the top two candidates would face off in November.
Schubert has been forced to campaign, and that’s good. She has spoken with many people she might never have met, and she’s heard their concerns.
Schubert is running as the virtual incumbent, and has the endorsements of Scully, Sheriff Scott Jones, several former judges, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos and former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Schubert ought to take a page from Cooley if she wins by placing a greater emphasis on the investigation and prosecution of corrupt public officials.
Schubert pledges to fully reinstate a unit that investigates shootings by law enforcement officers, and supports expanding alternative courts, including mental health court, which seeks to divert severely mentally ill people who commit crimes from jail or prison.
After two decades under Scully, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office could benefit from new leadership. In this instance, the new eyes belong to the insider.