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About Us

The mission of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) is to promote justice by enhancing prosecutorial excellence. To that end, CDAA is THE source of continuing legal education and legislative advocacy for its membership. In addition to offering seminars, publications, and extensive online tools, CDAA serves as a forum for the exchange of information and innovation in the criminal justice field. 

Legislation

CDAA staff tracks between 200 and 400 bills per year. This is in addition to the work done related to the annual adoption of the state budget.Legislation Committee is charged with developing CDAA’s legislative advocacy program. This committee determines CDAA’s legislative priorities by selecting bills to sponsor and adopting positions on pending legislation. The committee is comprised of approximately 35 ranging expertise, and meets at both CDAA annual conferences…

Prosecutor Resources

CDAA’s mission is to promote justice while enhancing prosecutorial excellence.   Listservs What’s New Committees Autobrief 20 Case Law Summaries and AG Opinions The Inquisitive Prosecutor Guides 2015 Prosecutors Directory Prosecutors Encyclopedia Jury Instructions Expert Witness Project Articles of Interest for…

Publications

The California District Attorneys Association has been providing legal publications to prosecutors, law enforcement, and other allied administration-of-justice professionals for more than 30 years. Today, with the assistance of grant funds and invaluable volunteers, CDAA’s Publications Department produces topical periodicals, specialized newsletters, trial practice manuals, monographs, and handbooks. To purchase publications from the CDAA Store, click here….

 

Training & Events

CDAA offers training programs in a variety of formats: Live and in-person, distance learning, virtual seminars, Master Academy classes, and Wednesday Webinars.

Role of the DA

The primary role of the District Attorney is to protect the community he or she is elected to serve. District Attorneys represent the public and endeavor to improve public safety by prosecuting those who threaten the well-being of the community and its citizens by breaking the law. Ultimately, a DA strives to improve the community he or she represents by making it a better place to live for everyone. The District Attorney’s functions include: Protecting the…

About Us

The mission of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) is to promote justice by enhancing prosecutorial excellence. To that end, CDAA is THE source of continuing legal education and legislative advocacy for its membership. In addition to offering seminars, publications, and extensive online tools, CDAA serves as a forum for the exchange of information and innovation in the criminal justice field.

Publications

The California District Attorneys Association has been providing legal publications to prosecutors, law enforcement, and other allied administration-of-justice professionals for more than 30 years. Today, with the assistance of grant funds and invaluable volunteers, CDAA’s Publications Department produces topical periodicals, specialized newsletters, trial practice manuals, monographs, and handbooks.

Training and Events

Due to COVID-19, CDAA is not offering any live trainings and events at this time, but we are offering a wide-range of distance learning options for participatory MCLE credit.

 

April 20, 2021 Statement on Derek Chauvin Verdict

In response to the guilty verdicts returned today in the case of State of Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin, CDAA president Vern Pierson commented: “Justice was served today. The California District Attorneys Association applauds the jurors’ decision to convict the defendant on all counts. We also congratulate the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for their unyielding and professional prosecution of this important murder case.”


Helping Prosecutors During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought so many changes to everyone’s personal and professional lives. CDAA has trained prosecutors for nearly 50 years with live training events and extensive manuals and periodicals. Since March 2020 we had to pivot with the times, and while we have not been able to offer any in-person events in the last 12 months, we have continued our mission to offer prosecutors the skills and resources they need to effectively and ethically do their jobs: representing the People and providing a voice and justice for crime victims.

During COVID, we have trained 11,046 prosecutors and law enforcement by offering 193 unique webinars and distance learning. In addition to participation in these live, remote classes, we have had 20,239 views from our Webinars on Library.

CDAA publications are written BY prosecutors FOR prosecutors. During the pandemic we produced and distributed the Investigation & Prosecution of Domestic Violence manual and Investigation & Prosecution of Strangulation Cases to every district attorney’s office in California. We also published the annual Legislative Digest—a summary of all new laws that affect criminal justice and prosecutors, as well as our quarterly journal Prosecutor’s Brief. And we are pleased to announce that a brand-new edition of the Victims’ Rights Manual will be published and distributed in May.


Gascón Defends Law That Puts Guns in the Hands of Criminals

On February 26, 2021, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón defended a law that puts guns in the hands of criminals at the exact moment that Los Angeles County is descending into gun violence.

AB 3234, which was passed last year by the California Legislature, created a diversion program allowing criminals—including those who bring guns to schools or to the Capitol—to continue to own or possess guns.

“It’s a reckless law, but yesterday, George Gascón defended it,” said Vern Pierson, President of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), an organization that represents almost all of the elected district attorneys in California and is committed to reforms, but not to the decriminalization of dangerous crimes.

Meanwhile, gun violence in Los Angeles is soaring. Murders in Los Angeles County are up 136.4% and shootings are up 261.5%. Attacks on police officers are up 300% from January 1 through January 18, 2021 when compared to the same time period in 2020. The chance of becoming a victim of any firearm crime (violent or property) in Los Angeles is now 1 in 33.

On this past Wednesday, February 24, 2021, pop icon Lady Gaga’s dog walker was brutally shot in Hollywood while walking Lady Gaga’s two dogs. She is now offering a $500,000, “no questions asked” reward for their safe return. But Gascón has implemented new policies that remove long-standing deterrents to criminals for using guns during the commission of crimes. “Under Gascón’s policies, even if the assailants in this case are captured, they will face up to 20 years less time in prison for the crime than they otherwise would have,” said Pierson.

With the reckless removal of gun crime deterrents, it is no surprise that gun crimes under Gascón are soaring. Today, CDAA calls on Gascón to abandon his reckless, soft-on-gun-crime policies. “The results of the Gascón experiment are in,” said Greg Totten, CDAA’s Chief Executive Officer, “and it’s no surprise that when you remove consequences for committing crimes with guns—gun crimes soar, and that’s exactly what’s happening Los Angeles.”


Truth, Guns, and Politics

Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager recently published a rambling attack against this organization that contained numerous false statements. Rather than defending her history of voting for weaker gun laws, she has falsely attacked CDAA, which is leading the fight to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. So let’s set the record straight.

Last year, CDAA’s own Board of Directors discovered concerns with a financial allocation issue in our accounting. When this issue came to light, we immediately stopped the allocation practice and have already begun repaying the funds. Despite our best efforts to ensure proper accounting, this allocation practice had not been noticed in our annual audit. So our Board immediately ordered an outside audit to determine the extent of the problem. We promptly solicited bids and began the audit as soon as we had obtained an outside accounting firm.We disclosed the findings of the outside audit on this very website in December, weeks before the issue was reported by the press. We made this disclosure in the interest of transparency, despite the fact that we are not a public agency, and therefore had no legal obligation to do so. Nothing in the audit found misappropriation of funds as Assemblywoman Kamlager repeatedly and falsely claims.

But Ms. Kamlager did not stop there with her dishonest attacks against this organization. Instead, she went on to also falsely represent our record on criminal justice issues. The truth is that CDAA and Ms. Kamlager have very different views about how to protect Californians. One example is gun safety. CDAA has consistently advocated to keep guns away from criminals. But just last year, Ms. Kamlager voted repeatedly to put guns in the hands of criminals. That bill, AB 3234 created a diversion program allowing even criminals who brought guns to schools or to the Capitol to continue to own or possess guns.Meanwhile, gun violence in Ms. Kamlager’s own home town of Los Angeles is soaring. Los Angeles saw the most murders last year in a decade. Victims shot in South Los Angeles are up 742% compared to last year. And gun possession arrests rose 70% in the last 6 months of 2020.

Sydney Kamlager has voted time and again to weaken gun laws. And now with gun crimes soaring in her own backyard, she’s trying to change the subject by attacking the leading organization advocating against the gun violence that she is making worse. If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned about politics over these last few years, it’s that truth matters. Californians deserve better than politicians like Sydney Kamlager who won’t tell the truth. Call her at (310) 641-5410 and tell her to stop putting guns in the hands of criminals.

Paid for by the California District Attorneys Association Political Action Committee. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.


CDAA Files Amicus Brief Supporting Los Angeles Association of DDAs 

The Association has grave concerns that some of the policies established by George Gascón violate the state’s constitutional protection of crime victims

January 12, 2021—The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) announced today it will file an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

CDAA’s actions are in response to a request from the ADDA, the union representing Los Angeles County prosecutors, which asked CDAA to weigh in on the directives.

CDAA responded with an open ethics letter to the ADDA expressing grave concern regarding some of the new Los Angeles County District Attorney’s policies, including one that compels prosecutors to read a blanket statement in court which, in some cases, violates the state’s constitutional protection of crime victims.

New sentencing guidelines, issued by Gascón on his first day in office, force Los Angeles County prosecutors to read a statement in court that asks for the removal of certain sentencing enhancements, such as possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.

“By prohibiting the gun enhancement, this new policy seeks to punish a gun-wielding robber the same as a defendant who snatches a purse from a victim’s shoulder,” CDAA said in its letter.

CDAA is a training and advocacy group for state prosecutors that Mr. Gascón was a member of when he served as San Francisco District Attorney, and it rarely addresses policy differences among elected District Attorneys. As the letter notes, however, CDAA believes it must take a position when policies implemented by an individual District Attorney go beyond the exercise of discretion and contravene both the state constitution and prosecutor ethics.

“The District Attorney does not possess the legal power to dispense with his deputies’ constitutional and statutory obligations to crime victims or the duty of candor by imposing a mandate to read a script,” said CDAA president Vern Pierson.

The amicus brief will be filed later this month in accordance with the superior court deadlines and procedures.


Statement from CDAA President Vern Pierson re January 6 Riots

January 7, 2021—Similar to many of the riots we saw earlier this year that began as peaceful protests, the violent mob that entered the U.S. Capitol building yesterday represents an attack on our most venerable and cherished institutions. The violence we have witnessed from these mobs should be a calling to all of us. A calling to fortify against this attack on the rule of law. A calling to come together as a nation to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

On January 27, 1838, a 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln gave a speech describing America’s greatest danger:  the “mobcratic spirit.” This speech is known as the Lyceum Address. In words that ring far too familiar today, he said, “I hope I am over wary; but … there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgement of courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice ….”  He warned that “if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property are held by no better tenure then the caprice of the mob …” then this government cannot last.

I have spent my entire 30-year career in law enforcement, as a deputy district attorney, a deputy attorney general, and since 2006 as the elected district attorney of El Dorado County.  It saddens me to see the rule of law get weaker and weaker every day.

As a member of law enforcement, a veteran, a grandfather, father, husband, and as an American, I strongly condemn the attack on the U.S. Capitol. As President of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA), I call on all of us in law enforcement and, frankly, to all citizens, to support the rule of law and assist federal, state, and local law enforcement in maintaining order, supporting the constitutional right to peaceful protests, and seeking ways to reduce the disregard for law that seems to pervade our country.

Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “The first person who throws the rock is a lot more radical than the hundredth person. By the time the riot has attracted a hundred people, you don’t have to be nearly as much a daredevil or a hothead or committed to any of those things to want to engage in a riot.”

It seems that as a society, throwing that rock has become more and more common, and thus easier and easier. We see it on social media chat pages, in the media, and even amongst lifelong friends. The anger is rising, the passion is intensifying, the rock throwing has become harder, and more dangerous.

I end this message as President Lincoln ended the Lyceum Address: “There is no grievance that is fit object of redress by mob law.”


CDAA Environmental & Worker Safety Audit Executive Summary

December 22, 2020—Earlier this year, the CDAA Board of Directors became aware of an internal accounting management practice that negatively impacted certain funds dedicated to environmental protection and worker safety. In response, CDAA commissioned a full and independent forensic financial audit of the programs by the outside accounting firm of Hemming Morse, LLP. The audit revealed a longstanding past financial practice, beginning in 2004, which resulted in the borrowing of certain restricted funds to support general functions of the organization. While the audit revealed no evidence of intentional malfeasance, it did identify a pattern that violated best practices and accepted accounting standards for restricted purpose funds. 

Additional points: 

  • CDAA concurs with the audit findings.
  • Upon learning of the issue this year, the CDAA Board took the following actions: (1) acknowledged the improper borrowing of restricted funding and immediately halted this practice; (2) alerted affected prosecutors in the environmental community; (3) initiated a plan for repayment of the borrowed funds; (4) commissioned a complete forensic audit by a highly respected independent firm; and (5) began the process of ensuring complete fidelity in the management of all restricted funds going forward.
  • To assist the auditors, the CDAA Board also assigned several veteran environmental and worker safety prosecutors to review all available settlements to identity those that involved restricted funds. All current CDAA staff members fully cooperated with the auditors.
  • The forensic audit cited numerous communications and settlement documents from District Attorneys and their offices stating that certain settlements provided to CDAA were intended to be restricted in use.
  • The forensic audit also found that independent annual financial audits performed for CDAA did not meet industry standards in the audit evidence verification process. CDAA is further investigating its options on this issue.
  • Notwithstanding the issues identified in this audit, the environmental programs overseen by CDAA have provided unhindered environmental protection and worker safety across California for over two decades and CDAA has spent nearly $19 million in support of the programs.

For more information, please contact CDAA President Vern Pierson at vern.pierson@edcgov.us


2020 CDAA Excellence in Innovation Awards

At the 2020 Winter Workshop in Rancho Mirage, January 13-17, CDAA recognized 14 programs developed by district attorney's offices as recipients of the CDAA Excellence in Innovation Awards. These awards recognize creative, “out-of-box” programs from district attorney’s offices andother prosecuting agencies that promote justice, public safety, and/or victim advocacy in ways that are innovative, effective, and/or cost-saving. The selection committee looks for programs that are unique, as well as easily replicable by other counties. For details about the winning programs, click HERE.


CDAA Launches Campaign to Bring Diversity to Prosecutor Offices

The CDAA Foundation has launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider becoming prosecutors and fostering greater diversity in district attorney’s offices throughout the state.

A new website, https://www.californiaprosecutors.org/, provides tools and resources for those considering a legal career or who currently are attending law school. It includes information on law schools, minority prosecutor associations, internships and jobs.

The website features written and video testimonials from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and deputy district attorneys from throughout the Golden State about why they chose their careers.

The project was the idea of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey who recognized the need for prosecutorial offices to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. District attorney’s offices statewide are involved in the effort.