Why California's Sentencing Reforms Could Cost L.A. Money
By Emily Alpert Reyes
Because California voters reduced penalties for a number of drug and theft crimes by passing Prop. 47, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer asked the City Council on Monday to let him hire more employees to file roughly 8,800 more cases expected annually -- crimes that used to be handled by the district attorney as felonies but now are misdemeanors.
That amounts to a 17% increase in workload, according to a spokesperson for Feuer. Nearly 2,000 pending cases are expected to be transferred from the district attorney to the city attorney in February.
In reaction, Feuer said he needed eight new attorneys and seven legal clerks, at a cost of more than $430,000 for the rest of the budget year and $875,000 annually in the future.
"We believe this is the bare minimum we need to try to get by," said Leela Kapur, Feuer's chief of staff.
A council committee approved funding Monday for the office to hire the added employees for the rest of the budget year. If approved by the full council, the new employees would begin work in January.
Feuer is seeking the additional employees as the city slowly emerges from a budget crisis that slashed staffing in many departments. Although Prop. 47 is expected to save Californians money, no new funding is earmarked for prosecutors whose offices are handling more cases, his office stated in a report.
Most other California cities don't have the same dilemma because their district attorney handles both misdemeanors and felonies, which is probably why the problem of shifting workloads was not contemplated when Prop. 47 was written, staffers from the city attorney's office told the committee.
At the urging of Councilman Bob Blumenfield, the committee also moved to lobby Sacramento lawmakers for money to cover the added costs borne by the city.
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