Saturday, September 08, 2012

Lee Kindlon for Albany DA


The campaign for Albany County District Attorney is a big deal. David Soares has been DA since defeating Paul Clyne in the 2004 election. Lee Kindlon, son of prominent defense lawyer Terry Kindlon and an experienced lawyer himself, is running against him in the September 13 Democratic primary election. I've moved on to Florida so this doesn't matter so much for me. My Albany practice is winding down quickly. But I still care deeply about my hometown.

There have been a lot of uninformed negative attacks against both sides on the internet, most notably on the Times Union blogs about Soares and Kindlon. I write today from the perspective of someone who has worked in the Albany criminal courts since 2003. I also worked as an intern in the DA's office back in early 1990s under Sol Greenberg, in the same unit as Clyne. I have handled many criminal cases with the Albany DA's office. I have also handled cases in more than a dozen other counties. 

I endorse Kindlon in this election. This is not so much because I think Lee is wonderful or that he will be the best prosecutor in history. I've met him. I like him. I have tremendous respect for his father. Lee will probably be a good prosecutor.

The main reason for my endorsement is my experience with the Albany DA's office under Soares. They are the worst in the region.

It's not that the individual employees are bad people. They're mostly good people struggling to work in a difficult situation.

The bread and butter of criminal prosecution in New York State is local criminal court - the city, town and village courts. This is where nearly all cases start and where most are resolved.

In 2004 while I was a Republican candidate for Congress, I supported Democrat Soares publicly during a radio interview. I voted for him. He has let us down.

He ran on a campaign supporting drug policy reform. But he is worse on drug cases than his predecessor. The legislature did finally reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I handled some of those cases. In other area counties like Saratoga, the DAs respected the legislative decision and applied the law. I had multiple cases in Albany where Soares' office resisted. And I know this topic - Judicial Diversion - better than most.

Soares created office policies that overburden his staff and the courts. In one case my client was accused of a massive grand larceny. Soares' office dropped the ball. While I still believe my client was innocent, the main reason he walked was mistakes in Soares' office. I've won other cases because of their incompetence, and in some of those my clients were guilty.

I don't need to write about Soares' more public failings. They've been adequately covered by others. But his showboating in Vancouver and Florida are important because they demonstrate a lack of focus on getting the job done in Albany.

Deep down what's missing in the Albany DA's office is a sense of what really happens in criminal courts. Most defendants are not hardened criminals. They're regular people, just like you and me. Some had a bad moment. Many have mental health problems. A good prosecutor recognizes that the ultimate goal in these cases is not punishment. It's prevention.

We do more for society if we get them help. This reduces the danger that they will make more mistakes, or tip over into a life of crime.

A prosecutor who spends too much time prosecuting people who need help has less time to prosecute the ones who need to be prosecuted. Soares clearly does not get this. He does not give his staff the chance to make these decisions.

In the recent Soares-Kindlon debate, the two disagreed about Kindlon's idea of a "rocket docket" to get cases moving. Soares responded in a misleading way:

Soares said, "Mr. Kindlon talks about a 'Rocket Docket." Well, unless he's running for Judge, I don't know who else controls our docket. It's the judge that set the calendars, the judge that set trial the judge that sets hearings"

While it is true that judges have ultimate control, the District Attorney has major influence over how cases move through the system. They can delay cases or push them forward. Soares' office is the primary reason for delays. They are often not ready to move forward. They haven't talked to the victim, or the arresting officer. They fail to follow up. Again, this is not about the individual ADAs. They are overloaded. They simply can't get to all the things on their plate because Soares' policies keep loading more and more on them.

Lee Kindlon will not be perfect. But he's worked on both sides. He's more likely to get this point. He's more likely to just run the office better.

But ultimately this election is not about Lee Kindlon. It's about Soares. When someone fails to get the job done, it's time to give someone else a chance. Mr. Soares: Your time is up.
Post a Comment