Justice Services encompasses a number of functions essential to securing justice to crime victims and the community. These include the Writs, Appeals and Training Unit and the Public Integrity Unit.
Justice Services is managed by the Special Assistant District Attorney, who serves as the Conviction Integrity deputy. The Special Assistant also prepares legal opinions on miscellaneous subjects, prepares and edits some of our office publications, handles special civil law matters, responds to Public Records Act requests and civil subpoenas, processes requests for U Visa certifications, analyzes misconduct issues under Brady v. Maryland, and enforces Brown Act open-meeting laws. The Special Assistant serves as liaison on the Brown Act and other civil law and municipal law matters to local government attorneys who are advising the county’s ten incorporated cities and its dozens of special districts.
As the United States Supreme Court recognized in Berger v. United States, the twofold aim of the prosecutor “is that guilt shall not escape nor innocence suffer.” While the trial and appellate process contain important safeguards for those accused of crime, we recognize that the criminal justice system is a human institution and cannot be perfect.
The Chief Deputy District Attorney, in his capacity as Conviction Integrity Deputy, reviews claims of factual innocence made by persons who have been convicted of a crime. The Conviction Integrity Deputy will conduct an initial inquiry to determine whether further review and/or investigation is necessary to evaluate the claim. Where appropriate, the review may include review of transcripts, evaluation of forensic evidence in light of new scientific knowledge, additional forensic tests, witness interviews, or other investigation. The Conviction Integrity process supplements the appellate process to avoid the possibility of an innocent person being punished for a crime they did not commit.
Defendants claiming that they are innocent of a crime of which they have been convicted have the initial burden to produce evidence of innocence. The request shall be made in writing to Chief Deputy District Attorney Chuck Hughes, at the District Attorney’s main office address listed here. The request must raise a meaningful claim of factual innocence and not be merely a request for re-sentencing, a re-weighing of conflicting evidence or for relief from immigration consequences. The fact that claims have been previously rejected by a trial court or appellate court will not necessarily preclude further inquiry. Whether a case should be dismissed after conviction based upon factual innocence will be carefully considered by a designated review committee.
Please click here to view a 27 minute recorded episode of a “LA Round Table” where guests including former Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Schwartz recently discussed conviction integrity issues.
The Public Integrity Unit evaluates and prosecutes complaints against public officials and others in a position of public trust for misappropriation of public funds and other misuse of public office. Matters handled by the unit include embezzlement by government officials or by officials of non-profit organizations, misuse of government resources, conflicts of interest, failing to report economic interests, and violations of election laws. Some violations may be referred for investigation and/or administrative action to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which has concurrent jurisdiction with the District Attorney for violations of the Political Reform Act.
The Writs, Appeals and Training Unit files and responds to writs and appeals in state courts, including the California Supreme Court, California Court of Appeal and Superior Court Appellate Division. The unit also responds to habeas corpus petitions in state and federal courts. The attorneys in the unit handle approximately 100 writs and appeals per year.
Responses to defense writs and appeals in completed felony cases are handled by the State Attorney General. The District Attorney’s Office responds to writs in felony cases that are still pending trial, writs in misdemeanor cases and misdemeanor appeals. The District Attorney’s Office also initiates and handles People’s appeals and People’s writs in misdemeanor and felony cases. The District Attorney’s Office ordinarily does not file briefs or participate in oral argument in traffic infraction cases.
The unit also coordinates the ongoing continuing education program for prosecutors, runs the training program for new prosecutors and contributes to training for District Attorney Investigators, other law enforcement agencies and at the Sheriff’s Academy.