Our second week at the Pima County Attorney’s Office began early. On the morning of Saturday, Jan. 9, at 10am, Dan South, our Criminal Chief Deputy who runs the entire Criminal Division of the Office, started receiving phone calls. Five attorneys were reporting positive Covid-19 tests and mild symptoms. (Reportedly, all positive employees are progressing in a good direction with their symptoms.) Critically, those five felony trial attorneys belonged to two of the most critical, victim-centered trial units, bringing the number of healthy employees unacceptably razor-thin close to the minimal number needed to maintain operations.
An outstanding team worked tirelessly Saturday and Sunday to take operations remote, leaving the building nearly empty to receive disinfecting fogging by County Facilities. Rick Unklesbay reported that it was likely the first closure in the building’s history.
· Through the week, the Office’s IT and Misdemeanor Units, in particular, pulled off an extraordinary feat, making sure justice didn’t skip a beat despite the temporary loss of the building.
· The level of Covid-19 inside the Pima County Jail was equally concerning. The Office is partnering with the Public Defender to identify individuals who can and should be moved out quickly to allow the jail to distance people more safely.
· The backlog of cases awaiting resolution continues to grow. I have taken opportunities to publicly thank victims for their patience. The Office also had a chance to co-present with the Public Defender’s Office a Restorative Justice program proposal to Chief Presiding Judge Bryson, Chief Criminal Court Judge Liwski, and Judge Bergin. This would be a first-of-its-kind in the State and will take some months to put together, but it’s a critical first step regarding the case backlog and to improve justice for our community.
· I led an all-prosecutor meeting on cash bail to summarize the first week’s observations and brainstorm what the Office can do to continue to disengage from cash in the system.
· With a slew of proposals on the table as the state Legislature returns to work, my feedback was due this past week, and I was able to collaborate with other County Attorneys across Arizona, especially on designating more successful completions of probation as misdemeanors to stem the scourge of what a felony does to a person’s future employment opportunities.
· Last, and certainly not least, Andy Flagg, the head of the entire Civil Division of the Office, led a team of brilliant attorneys in responding to a lawsuit on the County’s curfew. Dr. Francisco Garcia testified about the hope of a plateau in the current, local outbreak. Many thanks go to that team’s tireless efforts to keep us all safe and healthy.
To be continued,