My Friends

Arrow Up

Arrow Up
Arrow Down
,
  • Thu
    23
  • Fri
    24
  • Sat
    25
  • Sun
    26
  • Mon
    27
  • Tue
    28
  • Wed
    29
A Night at the Besties Oct 23, 2014 Celebrate CityBeat's "Best of San Diego" issue with live music from Little Hurricane and Steph Johnson, performances from the Fern Street Circus, an art exhibit from the Dream Machine Arts Collective, a mobile video arcade by Coin Op North Park and more. 60 other events on Thursday, October 23
 
Fall Arts
Epic San Diego Museum of Art exhibition promises a textbook lesson in the evolution of modern works
Editorial
Kevin Faulconer’s likely to tack left on sustainability
Film
Adaptation of Patricia Highsmith novel tops our coverage of movies screening around town
News
With few specifics on who they were looking for, officers held the wrong man at gunpoint
Theater
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s musical leads our rundown of local plays

 

 
Log in to use your Facebook account with
San Diego CityBeat

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on San Diego CityBeat
 
Home / Articles / News / News /  When the defense endorses the prosecution
. . . .
Wednesday, Nov 02, 2011

When the defense endorses the prosecution

Public Defender Henry Coker’s support for Bonnie Dumanis could be problematic

By Dave Maass
henrycoker Henry Coker

San Diego County Public Defender Henry Coker has endorsed the county’s top prosecutor, District attorney Bonnie Dumanis, in her bid for San Diego mayor.

If that relationship makes you uneasy, you’re not alone. Throughout the country, public defenders are either prohibited from using their public office to endorse political candidates or they voluntarily refrain, as a matter of principle, from endorsing elected judicial officers, including judges and prosecutors. That’s just not the case in San Diego County.

Coker did not respond to CityBeat’s request for an interview, but the move is not out of character for the career public defender. In 2010, he joined Dumanis in campaigning for the reelection of four judges, including Deann Salcido, who later resigned after being formally censured for using her courtroom to audition for a reality-TV show. In endorsing Dumanis, he called the Republican “solution oriented,” pointing specifically to progress she’s made in information technology. If Dumanis loses the race, she will remain the district attorney and can run for reelection in 2014.

Federal-defender employees are barred from using their official titles in political activities under their code of conduct. The state of New Jersey has similar rules that prohibit officers and employees from engaging in political activity that “in any way relies upon” their official positions. Howard Finkelstein, the district attorney for Broward County, Fla., has a policy not to endorse in judicial or prosecutorial races, though he is not limited by any formal rules.

“It just seems smarmy and like good-ol’-boy politics,” Finkelstein tells City- Beat regarding public defenders who endorse prosecutors. “Whether I like our state attorney or not, I don’t think it is appropriate.”

In some cases, Finkelstein says, a public defender could put his clients at risk of retaliation if he were to endorse the district attorney’s opponent.

Endorsements involving judicial officers have kicked off controversy. In 1999, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, San Francisco’s public defender withdrew his reelection endorsement of the district attorney after the candidate allegedly attempted to pump him for information about his opponent for a hit piece. Also in the late 1990s, public defenders in Ventura County filed a complaint about a group of judges who endorsed a district attorney for a judicial seat, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But Finkelstein says that another reason to avoid endorsements is the impression it would leave with indigent defendants.

“If I do endorse [the prosecutor], how do I explain to my thousands of clients in jail that the state attorney that wants to put them away for decades and decades is someone I’m endorsing?” Finkelstein says. “It’s unseemly and it doesn’t seem right that I would stand shoulder-by-shoulder with someone trying to destroy my clients’ lives.”


Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMaass.




 
 
 
 
 
 
Close
Close
Close