Tennessee’s new legislation to test powers of ‘rogue’ DAs correct for the times

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  • David Minier of Spring Hill is a previous district attorney of California’s Santa Barbara and Madera counties and a retired judge of Madera County.

The Tennessee legislature’s “rogue” district attorney bill was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on Nov. 12. The new legislation permits the point out legal professional general to petition the Supreme Court for appointment of an impartial counsel to prosecute circumstances a district lawyer refuses to file. 

Despite the fact that the invoice handed by means of the legislature quickly, Sen. Raumesh Akbari termed it a “dangerous precedent,” and Rep. London Lamar complained it would “circumvent the discretion of the county district attorney that the people … have elected.”            

Some felt the law was aimed at Davidson County District Lawyer Glenn Funk, who has introduced he will not prosecute specified offenses. Among the all those are possession of smaller amounts of marijuana, classroom mask mandates by instructors, and failure of a small business to submit a recognize if transgender patrons are welcome to use their option of men’s or women’s bathrooms. 

The legislation can’t be weaponized, and it can be enforced

As a former district legal professional from yet another state, I can sympathize with objections to proscribing a prosecutor’s discretion. But these are various instances, and the new rogue district attorney law is right for the occasions. Despite the fact that some argue it can be weaponized for political intent, the legislation can be triggered only by the legal professional basic, a non-partisan formal appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court docket.          

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, raises the gavel in the Tennessee General Assembly on Oct. 27 in Nashville. Sexton sponsored a new law that gives the attorney general the power to go to the state Supreme Court in the hopes of temporarily replacing local district attorneys on cases they refuse to prosecute.

Others argue the law will be complicated to implement, due to the fact it is restricted to cases wherever a district lawyer “peremptorily and categorically refuses to prosecute.” A cautious district lawyer would not danger a community announcement, they argue, but would refuse quietly and, if challenged, blame failure to prosecute on a crushing caseload and insufficient deputies. But a district attorney’s refusal to prosecute specific crimes may possibly nicely grow to be a badge of honor to some, mainly because a new breed of district attorneys is showing, preaching reform and in search of disciples. 

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