Former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal has been retained to represent the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in a lawsuit brought by a prosecutors’ union that challenges criminal justice reform policies implemented soon after D.A. George Gascón took office, it was announced Thursday.
“Neal is one of the top lawyers in the nation and his vast legal experience will only benefit my mission to help reform the criminal justice system in Los Angeles County,” Gascón said in a statement. “I am confident that with Neal’s assistance we will prevail and continue on a path to achieve these goals.”
Katyal served as the acting solicitor general under then-President Barack Obama and has orally argued more than 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a partner at Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C., and is a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.
“Mr. Katyal has argued more Supreme Court cases than any other person of color in American history,” said Cristine DeBerry, founder and executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California. “It’s incredibly appropriate that he will be litigating a case with extraordinary consequences for communities of color that have disproportionately felt the weight of racist sentencing policies, like enhancements, and that simply have not made us safer.”
In February, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled mostly in favor of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County in a petition brought against Gascón, saying he cannot order his prosecutors to ignore laws that the union says protect the public, including three-strike allegations and sentencing enhancements.
Attorney Robert E. Dugdale, on behalf of Gascón and the District Attorney’s Office, previously said the ruling was not fully in favor of the union.
“The judge did not enjoin the D.A.’s policy prohibiting deputy district attorneys from filing most sentencing enhancements in new cases,” Dugdale said then. “However, he enjoined application of most aspects of the remaining directives.”
Gascón’s office has appealed Chalfant’s ruling.
The union contends the directives — handed down the day the county’s top prosecutor was sworn into office on Dec. 7 after defeating two-term incumbent Jackie Lacey — violate state law.
Since the reform-minded Gascón took office last year, he has also faced interference from state law enforcement leaders, outcry from victims and their families who claim his policies have abandoned them and calls for a recall election. His opponents have until Oct. 27 to gather 580,000 qualified signatures in their recall bid.