Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PA DAs Assoc. Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Duquesne Law School Symposium Marks Occasion

On Monday afternoon, Duquesne University Law School hosted Prosecution and Public Policy in the 21st Century, a symposium marking the 100th anniversary of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
The symposium was moderated by Supreme Court Justice, and former district attorney, J. Michael Eakin.  The panel consisted of seven prosecutors from across the commonwealth.
The most compelling aspect of the symposium was the tone of the event.  I commented to one of my former colleagues that it was the “softer side” of the district attorneys association.  The panel was asked to look into the future for prosecutors in Pennsylvania and across the county. 
The answers were much different than they might have been even 20 years ago during the “get tough” movement in the criminal justice system.  Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman spoke of using best practices across the board.  With a reduction in resources DAs have to get it right.
Ferman spoke of initiatives in her county like videotaping homicide interrogations and changes in procuring eyewitness identification.
Butler County District Attorney Richard A. Goldinger said at first he had a problem with “helping people that I think are bad people.” But, now he has warmed, in difficult economic times, to reentry services for offenders leaving jail or prison, specialty courts and diversionary sentences.
A question from the audience further probed specialty courts, “Why doesn’t everyone have them?”  Crawford County District Attorney Francis J. Schultz got a laugh when he said, tongue-in-cheek, “We have go to jail court.”  Schultz pointed out that specialty courts are not for every county.  The cost, the work load of small judiciaries makes it very difficult.
The panel stayed clear of controversy, but Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico, Jr made an interesting suggestion when asked about limited criminal justice resources.  Marsico suggested that countywide police forces, as opposed to the hundreds of municipal departments, may be an efficient and cost effective approach to policing.

The faculty and staff of Duquesne honored Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr for his continued support of internships and employment opportunities for law school students and graduates.
The panel also consisted of Washington County’s Eugene A. Vittone and Adams County’s Shawn C. Wagner.

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