What is the role of the District Attorney in our criminal justice system? Are there discretionary powers that allow latitude in charging and prosecuting? How do the policies and procedures of the DA’s office ensure equity and justice for all members of our community, in particular for people of color? Are the reporting practices sufficiently transparent that voters are aware of the values and priorities of their elected DA and how those affect daily decisions in the office?
In the past few years, a number of “progressive” DAs have been elected in Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and elsewhere. If their initiatives have resulted in safer communities, perhaps we can apply similar initiatives here to look beyond prosecution and imprisonment to improve our local criminal justice system. Or maybe the local record demonstrates that concerns about equity are already being addressed effectively. In this program Patricia Perlow and Brook Reinhard will describe the strengths and limitations of local practices and share their views on how prosecutors exercise their discretion in Lane County.
Patricia Perlow is Lane County’s first female elected District Attorney. She was appointed by Governor Brown in August 2015 and was elected in the May 2016 primary after a contested race. She has been a prosecutor in the Lane County District Attorney’s Office since January 1990. As District Attorney, she oversees an office of 73 full time equivalent employees and a budget of more than $11 million, including over $3 million in grants and other funding.
Ms Perlow earned her undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Oregon and was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in 1989. Early in her career, she clerked for Lane County Circuit Court Judges Douglas Spencer and Kip Leonard. She serves on the boards of the Relief Nursery, Kids’ FIRST, the Oregon District Attorney’s Association, Lane County Victim Impact Panel, Lane County Treatment Court, Lane County Veterans Court, and Lane County Mental Health Court. She also sits on the Public Safety Coordinating Council, the Lane County Mental Health Summit and a Leadership Team to address youth homelessness.
Brook Reinhard runs Public Defender Services of Lane County, a non-profit that for the last 42 years has defended the poor and powerless in the criminal justice system. He began working for a prosecutor’s office in Polk County while in law school, and that experience convinced him of the need for zealous representation for people accused of crimes. He started his career as a public defender in Roseburg, and was promoted to assistant director of that office after four years. He moved back to his hometown of Eugene in 2016 to run Lane County’s office. He supervises 20 defense attorneys and 22 legal support specialists.
Mr. Reinhard is a graduate of Springfield High School, holds a journalism degree from the University of Oregon. He pursued a career in journalism until 2006, when he quit his job and played professional poker for a year until getting into law school. He graduated from Willamette University School of Law in 2009 with a law degree and a certificate in advanced dispute resolution. He has served on the Roseburg Planning Commission, the board of the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, and is currently a member of the Lane County Public Safety Coordinating Council and the county advisory groups for Lane County’s Veteran, Mental Health and Treatment Courts.
Pat Bryan will ask the first question. She is a member of the local chapter of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice).