Laura Conover for County Attorney
I support Laura Conover for Pima County Attorney. Why requires some background and history.
A.R.S. 11-532 defines the powers and duties of the County Attorney. It begins thusly: The county attorney is the public prosecutor of the county … . Twelve itemized duties follow. Some large and some not so much. The statute also refers to certain situations and the right to offer civil legal services to other governmental bodies. Those details matter little, though. We live in a county with more than 1,000,000 residents and an office with hundreds of employees, handling thousands of cases every year, The elected County Attorney leads the office. She or he sets and evaluates policy and represents the system to its stakeholders: the community, defense counsel, the courts, and other officeholders.
Twenty-five people have served as Pima County Attorney. They include: future Judge, Governor and Ambassador, Raul Castro; future Congressman Morris Udall; and future U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini. One delightful gent, David Dingeldine, served twice, in both instances as an appointed caretaker after a resignation.
But for Mr. Dingeldine’s worthy service, Steve Neeley and Barbara LaWall have served for 44 years. Eleven elections. Throughout, they have been “tough on crime” prosecutors. Recall that “tough on crime” represents the way it was from the late 1960s until, well, now in many communities. More arrests and prosecutions. Ratcheting up sentences and, with mandatory minimums and the prosecutor’s charging authority, the ability to send even minor offenders off to prison. In tandem with the efforts at the state and local level, Congress started adding crimes to the United State Code. Something bad happens? Make it a federal crime. Rinse. Repeat.
Crime rates did fall. Dramatically, especially in big cities. Why? Theories abound, and many likely have merit … including locking people up. (You can’t rob a bank from prison!)
We live in a complicated world! Locking people up – especially people of color, who suffered disproportionately because of the ways in which white people write laws and apply them – changes them. Rarely, for the better. So, what seemed like a sensible approach – actually, tough on crime represented the laziest way out, and a way to Other-ize people of color – led us to George Floyd and the last 50 days.
Now represents a different era. Across the country communities vote for outsiders to act as their state prosecutor. People not steeped in Tough. Experience. Conviction Rate. (For heaven’s sake, anyone who prosecutes criminal cases wins ~ 99% of them. The system forces those outcomes.)
Laura Conover has practiced law for 14 years. Not forever, to someone coming up on 39 years, but long enough. For the past few years, she has served as the CJA Panel Representative for the U.S. District Court in Arizona. This job includes plenty of administrative tasks, associated with the 400 private practitioners who serve as appointed defense counsel in federal court.
So, Ms. Conover has some administrative chops. And she brings fresh perspectives to running an office which represents us, the people. I claim no expertise when it comes to this arena, but I like Ms. Conover’s ideas and, especially, her nuanced approach. Keeping us safe can’t be an all or nothing deal, unless we want to live in Singapore or Guatemala.
Mark Diebolt and Jonathan Mosher
Which brings us to Mr. Diebolt and Mr. Mosher. Both men have worked in the Pima County Attorney’s Office for many years.
Mr. Diebolt, by all accounts, is a decent fellow. Experienced, too. Here’s his tagline, from his website:
When it comes to keeping our streets safe, experience matters. And with over 300 criminal trials under his belt, no one has more than Mark Diebolt.
With respect, Mr. Diebolt’s truthful observation misses the mark in every way. The elected County Attorney does not try cases, so trial experience matters not at all. Managerial expertise and judgment do, and nothing in Mr. Diebolt’s past suggests any special skills in either respect.
Mr. Mosher, at his site, calls himself a Tested Prosecutor and Committed Reformer. Again, prosecutorial skills matter not at all. (With respect for some former partners I like very much, the best trial lawyers I’ve known have not been especially able about running law firms.) As for reform, Mr. Mosher’s vision references justice, accountability, children, victims and, finally, “innovation, rehabilitation, & intelligent reform.” In. That. Order.
Forgive me for being skeptical, please. The PCOA website states: Pima County Has the Lowest Felony Plea Bargain Rate in Arizona. Frankly, I can’t square that statement and Chief Criminal Deputy Mosher’s reform talk.
I believe Barbara LaWall and her team believe they have served our community well. And, in many respects, they have. However, after 44 years, we need someone new. Someone who does not have 15+ years of experience at the PCAO. Someone who knows trial experience matters not at all when we are selecting a County Attorney. And, someone who appreciates the fact that “tough on crime” has had its 15 minutes of fame, and that “smarter and better” represent our future.
Vote for Laura Conover for Pima County Attorney.