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Progressive Los Angeles District Attorney Facing Roadblocks

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is pictured in this undate...

Credit: Courtesy of Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office

Above: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is pictured in this undated photo.

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The progress that newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was elected to make is facing obstacles, including a lawsuit filed by his own prosecutors.

Aired: February 16, 2021 | Transcript

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office is the largest in the nation. So, when George Gascón, a progressive former district attorney of San Francisco, was elected this November to run it, advocates for criminal justice reform rejoiced.

Gascón acted right away, delivering a raft of new policies. His prosecutors could no longer seek the death penalty, try juveniles as adults, attend parole hearings or file most sentencing enhancements that increase punishments.

The reaction was swift. The union that represents many Los Angeles prosecutors filed suit against the removal of sentencing enhancements, and a judge ruled Gascón's plan violated the law. The organization representing 57 of California's 58 district attorneys — including San Diego County's District Attorney Summer Stephen — weighed in, questioning the legality of Gascón’s mandates.

A statewide battle is shaping up between reformers like Gascón and traditional law-and-order prosecutors over the definition and shape of criminal justice in California and other states.

Reporter Anita Chabria, who covers criminal justice for the Los Angeles Times, talked with KPBS Midday Edition about Gascón and his plans for criminal justice reform.

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