A San Francisco judge took the unusual step of excoriating District Attorney Chesa Boudin for being too busy talking about criminal justice reform to focus on running his office properly.
Judge Bruce Chan’s rebuke came on Tuesday, as San Francisco prosecutors sought to dismiss a weapons case, following delays of more than a year in disclosing DNA evidence.
Before prosecutors sought dismissal, however, Chan blasted Boudin and his office.
According to the court’s transcript of the hearing, Chan said he spoke out in “the forlorn hope that someone in the DA’s office might pay attention.”
While the veteran judge said he “wholeheartedly” supports criminal justice reform efforts, he complained Boudin’s office is beset by the “chaos” of constant staff turnover and management reorganizations. As a result, the judge said, it’s neglecting “the fundamentals of competent, professional prosecution.”
“I cannot express in any more certain terms my disapproval of the manner in which the office of the district attorney is being managed,” the judge said. “We simply cannot have the current levels of inadvertence, disorganization, and expect there to be any public confidence in what we do here collectively.”
Chan concluded: “It's time to really take care of business at home instead of thinking about the national or state stage. Individualized consideration of these cases, individualized justice requires no less.”
Backers of the ongoing recall drive against Boudin quickly seized on Chan’s remarks.
They say they already have more than the 51,000 valid signatures required by next month to put the recall on a ballot next year. They added, however, the judge’s remarks are just more proof Boudin should be removed.
“He fancies himself as a national figure, perhaps he is,’’ said recall effort spokeswoman Andrea Shorter, “but San Franciscans are very concerned and dissatisfied with his performance in San Francisco, right here at home. ”
Boudin’s office says they’ve already moved to retrain prosecutors because of other earlier judicial concerns about a lack of proper evidence disclosure.
As for Chan’s remarks, the office said Wednesday “it’s disappointing that the judge in this case decided to air his grievances in open court rather than through the existing communication channels.”
District Attorney spokeswoman Rachel Marshall said Judge Chan had apologized to Boudin for his remarks. The court had no comment.
But deputy public defender Martina Avalos – whose client had their case dismissed by prosecutors because of evidence disclosure delays -- welcomed the court’s intervention.
“I think if Mr. Boudin would really like this to be a progressive office, things have to change,” Avalos said. “People who are accused of crime have a right to know the evidence that the government has against them.”