The Problem With Elected District Attorneys

While Philadelphia appears to have elected itself an excellent district attorney, I can’t help but think this should be an appointed position (and I usually oppose appointed positions). Why? Well, as this post lays out, some of them are awful, but are still unopposed. And DAs have extraordinary power: they are essentially deciding criminal justice policy by fiat. The problem is that challengers can be hard to find, especially in smaller jurisdictions because you need to be a lawyer to be a DA; unlike other political positions, this really limits the pool of potential candidates.

Arguably, one shouldn’t have to be a lawyer, as it is essentially an administrative job, but an ‘administrative DA’ wouldn’t be able to argue in court (or at least be very good at it). For there to be any kind of accountability for the DA’s governance, he needs to report to–and be able to be removed by–an elected official. Besides, with rare exceptions, very few people know what a DA’s policies are (in New York City, Cyrus Vance Jr. keeps getting elected after all, and he’s one corrupt motherfucker).

So, while Philly ended well, maybe these should be appointed positions, just like the U.S. Attorney General.

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