I worked with 6 SF DAs. The Boudin recall has no merit.

In December 2021, I retired after more than 30 years as a prosecutor in California. Most of my service was in San Francisco. I was honored to work for the people of this city to promote justice and accountability and I took my job seriously. Former District Attorney Kamala Harris once affectionately called me a “pit bull” when presenting me with a Justice Award for a hate crime prosecution.

In that time I prosecuted crimes ranging from violent felonies to misdemeanors. In my final years in the office, I worked closely with our collaborative courts and diversion programs. I had a front row seat to our criminal legal system, the impact of incarceration and the opportunities presented by alternative methods of accountability.

Contrary to the views of the recall targeting District Attorney Chesa Boudin, I’m one of many experienced prosecutors who has seen how his approach changes lives — and who opposes his recall.

I have seen accused persons needing drug or mental health treatment wait months in jail before even getting an interview, let alone an actual placement in a program. Many of the accused suffer from trauma which must be addressed to lower recidivism. Each trauma template is unique and must be rewritten in therapy. Yet too often they do not get the care their complicated mental health and addiction needs require.

Instead, we rely on incarceration, which costs taxpayers more without reducing recidivism. I have witnessed complete lifestyle changes through the workings of our collaborative courts — which began under Kamala Harris — breaking the cycle of recidivism. There is hope if San Francisco can do the hard work.

Yet instead of focusing on that hard work, the recall has been relentlessly attacking Boudin.

It is telling that the recall campaign has focused none of its massive budget of millions of dollars to advocate for solutions that will truly improve public safety. Instead, they have scapegoated Chesa Boudin to advance their political agenda.

Not long ago, I entered a CVS and was almost run into by a shoplifter leaving the store. I asked a clerk if they planned on calling the police and he said no because “the district attorney won’t prosecute.”

I told him that I was an assistant district attorney and that’s simply not true. Boudin files charges for shoplifting — just like his predecessors. But this man, like many in our city, has been subjected to months of ads and recall rhetoric that is awash in falsehoods and outright lies.

Just this week, newly appointed Supervisor Matt Dorsey followed that same pattern in announcing his endorsement of the recall. He claims that, by resolving drug sales cases with accessory after the fact charges instead of possession with intent to sell, Boudin isn’t doing enough on this issue. Yet the office has obtained hundreds of convictions in drug cases while following clear state law that requires prosecutors to weigh immigration consequences in plea negotiations. Dorsey is critical of Boudin for following state law.

Dorsey ignores this. He also ignores that many sellers with addiction issues have successfully completed collaborative court, which is more rigorous than probation and where the person is monitored weekly by a judge on a treatment plan drawn up by the Department of Public Health. I’ve seen these courts save lives and money, yet that too goes ignored.

Worse, Dorsey also distorts a typical practice — plea deals that can result in lesser charges — into something nefarious. He relies on voters not understanding that Boudin follows the same practices that occurred under George Gascon and Kamala Harris (I was there for both). Boudin further is obliged to follow changes in state law that have occurred under his tenure. I’m sure Dorsey knows this reality, but it does not fit with his political intentions, so it is disregarded.

The caricature painted of Boudin by the recall bears little resemblance to the man I worked with. Boudin is not a career politician but a brilliant, well-informed and passionate DA with new ideas and a unique background that can benefit San Francisco.

Chesa Boudin was dealt a difficult hand — he came into office just two months before the pandemic shutdowns. Under DA Boudin, I have had discretion to do what is in the interest of justice on cases. That’s what we should ask for and expect in all DAs, yet sadly that is too often not the case. And it is to Boudin’s credit that he also recruited and hired experienced attorneys with impeccable credentials and organized outstanding continuing legal education programs with experts who are using that vast knowledge to better serve San Francisco.

All of this gets lost in the heated and false rhetoric of the recall.

I’m a career prosecutor and I come from a family of law enforcement officers. My family, too, has been touched by crime. Having seen our justice system as an assistant district attorney, a victim and the family member of a victim, I know the problems we face to make San Francisco safer are many, complex and involve the work of city agencies ranging from the DA’s office to the police department to housing and public health agencies.

Falsely attacking one elected official removes our attention from that reality.

Former President Barack Obama recently outlined the threat that disinformation poses to democracy. This recall has been built on that kind of disinformation.

Chesa Boudin absolutely believes in accountability — which sometimes includes incarceration when necessary. These times call for a DA who is willing to make tough calls, think outside of the box and develop new solutions. What we did in past decades has not worked. We must allow Chesa to follow through on the reforms he initiated.

I’ve served under six district attorneys — Chesa Boudin is the real deal. We don’t see that all that often. We must not fall for a campaign built on lies; instead, we should vote to uphold our values. Please vote “no” on Proposition H: reject the recall.

Judith Garvey served as an assistant DA from 1982 through 2021, working for six district attorneys and is retired. She also worked eight years for the California Legislature’s Assembly Committee on Public Safety, serving as chief counsel for the last of the two years analyzing and writing laws affecting the criminal justice system and participating in legislative hearings and investigations.

Leave a Comment