“If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” –Charles Dickens
Last night, the League of Women Voters of Northern Nevada hosted another “debate” forum, this time for the candidates for Carson City District Attorney. Mark Kruger, currently a Deputy District Attorney, and Jason Woodbury, coming out of private practice to run for the first time for public office. Attendance was light and with only two candidates on deck, the session was over rather quickly. The League, once again, demonstrated that it knows how to get things done and this forum was no exception.
The DA Actions Starts here: http://youtu.be/-Xi9Zmdg5Mg?t=16m27s
Introductions began with Woodbury outlining his background which you’ve already seen here, and then proceeded to his top three issues: Retention of high quality personnel and the high personnel turnover rate at the DA’s office which he believes is indicative of larger issues; delayed prosecutions for which he would “claim ownership” and only grant delays when absolutely necessary; and lastly renew and strictly adhere to the Open Meeting Law.
Kruger also provided his background and outlined his recent trial history and attributes. His three issues were: Expand victim witness programs including the recently touted dog program; decried Woodbury’s backing by defense attorneys who he claimed were responsible for the delays in trials; and then never really got to a third point while rambling over topics like services and saving taxpayers money. If this event were scored, the majority of points would have to go to Woodbury. His delivery was forceful, his points clear, and he provided specific measures he would implement to fix issues both candidates identified.
Kruger’s delivery was less confident and concise, though his experience as a trial attorney was clearly evident. One felt as if the audience was a jury and he was making closing arguments on a weak case.
When it came to audience questions, the first focused on the significant delays in child cases requiring victims to tell their story repeatedly. The author pointed to the Washoe County advocate programs as a successful model. Kruger claimed extensive experience with child abuse cases and with child advocacy programs but stated it requires a community effort and he would “reach out to the community” for this type of support. Woodbury stated that “we need to be realistic on what to expect” and went on to explain that Carson City lacks the resources to create a specific center but did have multiple resources capable of addressing the issues faced by victims. He went on to state that the DA’s Office needed to recognize that repeatedly postponing trials re-victimizes the victims.
Mark Krueger Carson City, Nevada
This round went to Woodbury though he didn’t claim experience in working these types of cases, he was a clear proponent of effectively using existing resources as opposed to Kruger’s ambiguous “reaching out to the community.”
On the subject of marijuana laws, both candidates spoke to the ambiguity of the effectiveness of treatment programs as well as the probability of changes in the law. Woodbury argued that strict enforcement of existing law was the essential. Kruger spoke to driving under the influence and strict enforcement of criminal law through aggressive prosecution to keep the community safe. No clear winner on this topic; its uncharted water for Nevada and certainly for Carson City.
Responding to a question about the open meeting law and the ability for the City Manger to hold meeting outside of the law. Kruger went first and explained that the law was clear but then failed to explain it clearly. He stated he was a proponent of the law and recited his experience in applying it. Woodbury spoke specifically to establishing training efforts to ensure City personnel understand the meeting law and then explained the need for meetings to occur to provide essential information. This round goes to…no one. You’ll have to watch the video if you’re looking for a better answer.
Regarding the need for a State Court of Appeals, Woodbury sated he was personally opposed because existing procedures within the court system could provide the relief the Superior Court desires. Kruger waffled around in coming an answer but came down to “I don’t know.” Given that the victor of this race will have to appear before judges affected by the results of the ballot question, this is likely a fair outcome but Woodbury gets points for both knowing the issue and having the guts air his personal viewpoint.
On a question of the factors influencing a death penalty case, Kruger gave us a class on the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors being the sole legal question. In contrast, Woodbury came out specifically in favor of the death penalty but emphasized that capital trials are extremely expensive and Carson City is not prepared to expend this kind of money without good reason. Woodbury also emphasized the need to ensure the victim’s family understands that the punishment is rarely actually carried out; criminals are more likely to die of natural causes rather than at the hands of the State.
On the highly charged issue of the Carson Tahoe Hospital declining to provide rape kits and exams for rape victims, Woodbury responded that the hospital’s decision “alarmed” him. He went on to explain that he had followed up by contacting the nursing leadership at the hospital. What he says he found out was that the hospital felt there were not enough cases to keep a nurse on staff with the specialized skills required to perform the exams and that other viable alternatives existed. Kruger claims there are nurses in the area with the skills to conduct the exams but that for unknown reasons (most likely money), the hospital doesn’t want to do them. Sadly, Kruger believes Carson City does have a sufficient number of cases to warrant having the exams done locally but did not provide an solution or an answer to the question.
In closing, Kruger spoke again of his experience and that he would like the opportunity to expand the victim’s services program while revising the efficiency of the DA’s Office. Woodbury concluded by saying he has no other career aspirations outside of becoming DA and he feels he is doing the right thing by standing up for the community, one he sincerely believes in.
As we’ve come to expect during this race, there was little in the way of controversy or fireworks. Both candidates appeared sincere in their belief that they are the best man for the job. Reading between the lines, Kruger leaned heavily on the fact that he’s already in the DA’s Office and his experience there somehow makes him the heir apparent. In sometimes stark contrast, Woodbury emphasized repeatedly that the status quo wasn’t working; for victims, for justice, for staff, or the taxpayers. Notably, he made the effort to get answers from Carson Tahoe Hospital whereas his opponent simply stated he didn’t know the reasons for the hospital’s decisions. There was little doubt that Woodbury easily claimed the high ground during the forum and Kruger was out-done, sometimes simply due to his lack of effort. This race still isn’t as volatile as the two for Supervisor and though it really isn’t as “dull as dirt.” Maybe it should be. Yes, we’re looking for someone to fix the personnel and policy issues at the DA’s Office but more importantly, we’re looking for a champion of justice. Kruger has the experience but Woodbury has the fire. One believes that his years of service make him “next” and one is leaving (an assumed lucrative) private practice to “do the right thing.” Passion isn’t often appreciated in most courtrooms but in a candidate, it’s an admirable quality. Other things being essentially equal, Woodbury brought the most to the debate and brings the most to Carson City.