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Crime Fighters 

Our DA Candidates' plans to rescue Humboldt from dark forces

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It might be the most powerful position in all of Humboldt. The county's next district attorney will oversee a staff of nearly 60 people and wield the authority of the state to pursue criminal charges against local citizens, negotiate punishments and, in extreme cases, even pursue the death penalty.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office receives thousands of reports from local law enforcement agencies every year, and sifts through them to determine whether to pursue criminal cases or civil remedies against the subjects. The office's prosecutors file charges and prosecute defendants, working with local law enforcement agencies, victims and witnesses to present cases to judges and juries. While commanding a salary of $157,000, the elected district attorney has the power to forever alter and destroy lives while pursuing justice in the name of the state of California.

First elected to the office in 2002, the often-polarizing sitting District Attorney, Paul Gallegos, is not seeking re-election, leaving the race wide open. For the first time in more than a decade, voters will be left to choose from a slate of fresh faces for the office, each of whom carry new ideas and approaches to prosecuting crime in Humboldt County. There's Allan Dollison, the military veteran and former prosecutor; Elan Firpo, the former high-tech engineer turned deputy district attorney who is the only candidate currently working in the office; Maggie Fleming, the longtime prosecutor who left Gallegos' office to work in the county attorney's office; and Arnie Klein, the retired deputy district attorney with decades of experience in courtrooms throughout the state.

Each of the candidates took some time in recent weeks to sit down with the Journal to discuss his or her plans for the office and to weigh in on the central issues of the campaign. Here's an overview of the issues and the candidates' plans.

Understaffed and overworked

By just about any measure you choose, the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office is underfunded and understaffed, leaving prosecutors overworked with caseloads well beyond those recommended by the American Bar Association. At the debates held in the DA's race in recent months, the candidates have all lamented the situation, each pledging that his or her tenure in office will bring more county funds, more grants and more prosecutors into the office. It has clearly become the central issue of the campaign, with questions of plea bargains, case prioritization and the prosecution of serious violent felonies all coming back to questions of funding and staffing.

So, how bad is the problem really? The short answer is: bad. The office currently has about 13 full-time equivalent attorneys, a number that includes Gallegos and Assistant District Attorney Kelly Neel — both of whom have a host of administrative duties in addition to prosecuting cases — a juvenile prosecutor and an environmental prosecutor. That leaves about nine full-time attorneys to handle almost all the adult felony and misdemeanor prosecutions for the county. In 2012 — the last year for which numbers are available — the office filed 2,299 felony cases and 4,429 misdemeanor ones, according to the California Department of Justice.

That breaks down crudely to about 255 felony cases and 492 misdemeanor cases for each of the nine full-time equivalent attorneys in the office, numbers that obliterate the American Bar Association's recommendation that prosecutors handle no more than 150 felony cases or 500 misdemeanors in a year.

The caseload of Humboldt prosecutors also stands in stark contrast to those of similar northern California counties. Mendocino County employed 18 prosecutors in 2012 to handle 1,456 felony and 3,191 misdemeanor cases, which equals about 80 felonies and 177 misdemeanor cases per attorney in the office, according to California Department of Justice statistics. Meanwhile, in 2012, Lake County employed 13 attorneys to prosecute its 1,126 felony and 1,921 misdemeanor cases, which breaks down to 86 felony and 147 misdemeanor cases per attorney. So, it's clear prosecutors in Humboldt face a heftier workload than their neighbors.

The disparity in caseloads seems to boil down to the fact that Mendocino and Lake counties have made funding their prosecutors' offices a larger budget priority.

Lake County, which has a population of roughly 66,000 and sees an average of one criminal complaint sought annually per every 20 residents, spends about $3.3 million from its general fund on its district attorney's office. That pencils out to just less than 6 percent of the county's entire general fund spending, with the county dolling out about $1,000 on prosecution for every criminal complaint sought. Meanwhile, Mendocino County, which boasts a population of about 87,000 and sees an average of one criminal complaint sought annually per every 19 residents, spends $3.45 million from its general fund on its prosecutors' office. Like Lake County, that equals just under 6 percent of Mendocino's general fund spending, and averages out to about $749 spent on prosecution for each criminal complaint sought.

Humboldt County, however, has a population of about 135,000 and sees an average of one criminal complaint sought annually per every 18 residents, but allocated only $2.1 million from its general fund to the district attorney's office. That's equal to less than 2 percent of the county's $106 million general fund, and pencils out to about $312 per criminal complaint sought by law enforcement.

A couple of years ago Gallegos briefly considered simply halting the prosecution of most misdemeanor offenses, saying the workload was unsustainable. Gallegos ultimately reconsidered, but little has changed as far as staffing and funding, and many attribute the extremely heavy workload as a reason the office is having trouble retaining prosecutors.

Soon it will be up to one of the four candidates to chart a path forward and it doesn't seem that a funding windfall is on the horizon. As the county prepares its 2014-2015 budget, it's looking at a roughly $3.6 million general fund shortfall, including a $1.2 million structural deficit — meaning recurring expenditures are far outpacing annual revenue estimates. The Journal asked each of the candidates to discuss plans for bringing additional resources to the office, and what he or she would do if the office simply has to make do with existing funding and staffing levels.

Dollison said he thinks the first component to properly funding the office has to be educating the Board of Supervisors. Using a detailed presentation on case loads — including the number of cases going to trial — Dollison said he would come up with a metric to determine how many attorneys and support staffers are needed in the office. "What we have had before has not been a realistic representation of the needs of the department," Dollison said. "I would apply an evidence-based approach and say, 'These are our needs.'" Dollison said he would also work to secure additional grants for the office, working with other department heads, state legislators and our local congressman to secure additional funding wherever possible.

If those efforts fail, Dollison said he would take a "hard look" at all low-level cases, weighing whether they are worth the expense of prosecution. Dollison said he would also implement a system in which inexperienced attorneys handle preliminary hearings — proceedings held to determine if there is enough evidence to hold a defendant to stand trial — freeing up his more experienced attorneys to focus on trying serious and violent felonies. But, Dollison said, he would not categorically stop prosecuting any specific offenses. "I'm not a big fan of making whole swaths of crime unenforceable," he said.

Firpo said the office needs 20 attorneys and she has a plan to get it there. After presenting an "articulate budget" that thoroughly explains the office's needs and pushing for general fund allocations to hire two additional attorneys, Firpo said she would aggressively pursue grant funds to hire six more prosecutors. Specifically, she said she would pursue grants for "vertical prosecutors," or attorneys who see specific types of cases through from start to finish. Some of the grants require matching funds from the county, but Firpo said she feels the supervisors would be willing to allocate some additional money if they felt they were getting a good return on their investment.

Even without additional resources, Firpo said she thinks the office can be run more efficiently to better utilize the resources it has. The office is currently transitioning to a paperless records system that she says will free up some employee time to do other things. "There are about five people in the office whose job is now to move paper," she said, adding that she would also work to better integrate the victim-witness office and the investigative bureau with the goal of taking some time consuming things off prosecutors' plates, letting them focus more keenly on their cases. "There's a lot of management work that would make the office more efficient," she said.

Fleming said the office simply needs to bring in outside resources and that she would aggressively seek grant funds, adding that she knows of specific grants that fund child, sex and elder abuse prosecutors, as well as others to handle drug cases. She said she's already been in contact with state legislators about grant opportunities and ways to bring additional funds to the office. Additionally, Fleming said she would work hard to bring quality attorneys to the office by visiting law schools and recruiting new graduates, hoping to ease some of the retention issues that have led to vacant positions.

In the absence of additional resources, Fleming said she would put intense focus on targeting violent and repeat offenders, "those who really impact our daily lives." Fleming said the early resolution misdemeanor court — which sees roughly 70 percent of misdemeanor cases resolved with plea deals very early in the process — has been very effective, and that she'd look to expand it, if possible. Ultimately, Fleming said the office would have to prioritize and ask, "What are the cases we're going to decide are going-to-trial worthy?"

Klein said the Board of Supervisors simply hasn't been educated on the true cost of crime in the local community, explaining that a run-of-the-mill mugging can leave a family with medical expenses, strand a business without an employee and tie up a courtroom for weeks, pulling jurors away from work as tax payers foot the bill for a judge, bailiff and attorneys to handle the case. "The costs just continue on and on," Klein said, adding that he would work to educate the board on the nuanced costs of crime on the community and his department's needs. "I'd tell them, 'If you don't fund the DA's office, it will all come crumbling down," he said. "If they don't give us the funding, it sends the message that the board doesn't care about the community."

Without additional funding, Klein said he would work to make the office operate more efficiently, saying he has four or five experienced attorneys from outside the area who have committed to coming to Humboldt to work for him. Ultimately, Klein said the office would have to practice "legal triage," focusing on the most violent offenders. Klein additionally said he would deputize local tribal attorneys to prosecute misdemeanors to relieve some of the burden on his office, and that he would bring district attorney investigators back into the courtroom to help attorneys with their cases.

Pleas, pleas and more pleas

Experts agree that, across the nation, more than 90 percent of criminal cases end with a plea of guilty. Plea bargains aren't just pervasive — without them the entire criminal justice system would collapse. There wouldn't be enough courtrooms and judges to try cases. Defendants' right to a speedy trial would be trampled and it would be complete chaos.

Virtually everyone agrees that plea bargains are a necessary part of the criminal justice system. But nowhere is a prosecutor's discretion more apparent than in how he or she handles plea dispositions, as offers are meted out based on facts contained in police reports that are often shrouded from public view, and it's the prosecutor who has the power to turn murder into manslaughter, strike offenses into simple felonies, and average felonies into misdemeanors. A judge ultimately has the discretion to accept or deny a plea agreement, but it's rare that one rejects a negotiated disposition.

The topic of plea bargains has come up in every district attorney debate to date — sometimes drawing feisty exchanges between the candidates. The Journal asked each of the candidates to weigh in on plea agreements, and to explain how they would oversee them to ensure consistency and community safety if elected.

Dollison said the question of how plea bargains are handled in the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office is directly related to issues of staffing and funding. All of the prosecutors in the DA's Office care and work very hard, Dollison said, but unsustainable workloads often leave them looking to resolve cases as quickly and as easily as possible. That leads to some head-scratching deals, Dollison said. If elected, Dollison said he would institute a policy where pleas in all serious and violent cases are reviewed by him or a chief deputy to ensure consistency.

"The goal needs to be convicting a defendant of the most serious crime they can be convicted of based on the facts of the case," Dollison said. He added that he would, as a blanket policy, prohibit his office from entering into plea deals in murder cases until after a preliminary hearing to ensure the facts, strengths and weaknesses of the cases are properly and publicly vetted. Victims and their families need to have a voice at the table in plea dispositions, Dollison said, but they do not get a vote. "You don't represent the victim or the family, you represent the entire community," he said.

Firpo said plea dispositions are tricky, and what might be a just outcome doesn't always appear so to a watching public that isn't privy to all the facts and legal challenges of a case. Ultimately, Firpo said deputy district attorneys need to have the power to negotiate their own pleas, as they know the facts of a case best. "They're perfectly capable attorneys and hard-working people," she said, adding that an administrator simply doesn't have the time to pore over the thousands of reports that reviewing every plea disposition coming out of the office would require. "The notion of reviewing every plea bargain in the office is impossible and insulting," she said. "That would essentially just be one attorney running an office full of paralegals."

But, Firpo said, the office could do a better job of standardizing plea agreements to ensure consistent outcomes in similar cases. Currently, she said cases are divvied up among prosecutors based on an alphabetical system, not by case type. Having a system where cases are divvied up by the type of offense would help standardize plea agreements, Firpo said, as it would ensure all marijuana cases are being handled by a single attorney, for example. When it comes to victims and their families, Firpo said they should always be the best-informed about the status and progress of a case, but the outcome isn't their decision.

Fleming said California law is specific in requiring prosecutors to state on the record in open court a factual basis for every plea disposition, stating clearly and specifically why a charge is being reduced or dismissed. She doesn't believe that is happening now but said it would under her tenure. "We as a society don't want backroom deals," she said. "We want to know what's going on."

If elected, Fleming said she would initially take on overseeing plea dispositions coming out of the office, reviewing all pleas in serious and violent felonies to make sure they are consistent and just. Noting that the district attorney has a responsibility to mentor every prosecutor in the office, Fleming said she would discuss the decision making process with her attorneys, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of cases that will ultimately shape their potential chances of success at trial. Then, Fleming said she would help her attorneys find the "just outcome." Victims and their families, Fleming said, need to be involved in their process and provide input. But a district attorney represents all the people, she said, and a victim's wishes don't always align with justice or the best interests of society.

Klein said there are simply some cases in which a prosecutor shouldn't negotiate, leaving the defendant to plead as charged or go to trial. Pleading out those cases, Klein said, "sends a message to the community that it's not safe." If elected, Klein said all dispositions of violent crimes would have to be reviewed and cleared by him to make sure the office was giving a "consistent and measured response to violence in Humboldt County."

But, Klein conceded, there aren't enough hours in the day for a single person to review dispositions of all cases in the office, so he would limit his reviews to violent and high-profile cases. Klein also said he thinks it's important for serious, violent felony cases to go to preliminary hearings, both to vet the facts and to allow attorneys to get a feeling for the case's witnesses and how these individuals might perform at trial, which could impact the stance the office takes in negotiations. Ultimately, he said, the office needs to be more thoughtful and consistent in how it resolves cases.

To get the candidates' takes on other issues looming over the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, and to see them identify and respond to what they perceive as the biggest criticism of their candidacies, visit www.northcoastjournal.com for an extended version of this story.

Capital Cases

In the week or so before Oklahoma's botched execution of convicted killer Clayton Lockett thrust the death penalty back into the national spotlight, Humboldt's district attorney candidates weighed in on the subject during interviews with the Journal. As Humboldt's DA race plays out, the county's first capital case in decades is working its way through the courts.

Gallegos has opted to seek the death penalty against Jason Anthony Warren, a 29-year old with a violent history who stands accused of torturing and killing a woman in Hoopa before intentionally running down three joggers with a car outside of Eureka, killing one of them. The Humboldt electorate is pretty divided on the issue of capital punishment. In 2012, 50.65 percent of county voters cast ballots in favor of a ballot measure — Proposition 34 — seeking to repeal the state's death penalty, while 49.35 percent voted against it.

Under current California law, cases are eligible for the death penalty or a life-without-the-possibility of parole sentence if prosecutors can prove certain special circumstances existed, including that the victim was tortured or that a killing was committed for financial gain, to silence a witness or due to the victim's race, ethnicity or religion. But, while prosecutors are still free to seek the death penalty, the federal government has prohibited California from executing inmates since 2006, citing flaws in the state's lethal injection process. Currently, 746 inmates sit on California death row, including three convicted for crimes committed in Humboldt County.

According to a 2011 Loyola Law Review study, the state has spent more than $4 billion on its death penalty since it was implemented in 1978, despite having executed only 14 inmates. Commuting the death sentences of those awaiting execution and instead sentencing them to life in prison without the possibility of parole would save the state $170 million per year, according to the study.

With all this in mind, the Journal asked the candidates to weigh in on death penalty prosecutions.

Dollison said capital punishment is something that he would leave on the table to be considered in only the most serious cases. He said his office would develop a policy that considered the age of the defendant, the status of the victim, the loss to the community, the background of the defendant, his or her conduct after the offense, the manner of the crime and the provability of the case. And, Dollison said, he would gather input from all attorneys in the DA's Office before deciding to pursue a capital case.

Firpo said she is philosophically opposed to the death penalty and noted that, in reality, capital punishment really isn't an option in California, saying "It's outrageous how much money the state of California spends to threaten what we don't actually have." But Firpo wouldn't take it off the table entirely, saying it should be an option for the most heinous crimes but "it's almost never going to be appropriate."

Fleming said the death penalty would be a tool under her administration. With eligible cases, she would go through a checklist from the District Attorneys Association that considers a wide variety of factors to determine if the death penalty is warranted. "I would look at all the factors, especially a defendant's propensity for violence in the future," she said, pointing out that life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences are served in a prison's general population, while death row inmates are kept isolated to protect other prisoners. In order for her to pursue a capital case, Fleming said evidence of guilt would have to be "overwhelming."

Klein said he's prosecuted and defended death penalty cases during his career, but is now against capital punishment. "Why would we spend all this time and all this money to put someone on death row?" he said. "We simply don't have the resources and I'm morally opposed to it." Klein said his administration would, however, vigorously pursue life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences "every time I have a chance."

Realignment

In response to a court order to reduce populations in its overcrowded prisons, the state of California began making some dramatic changes to its criminal justice system in 2011. Known as realignment, the plan shifts responsibility for large numbers of "non-serious, non-violent, non-sexual" felony offenders from the state to counties.

The realignment shifted tens of thousands of low-risk felons from state prisons to county supervision and dramatically limited low-level offenders' exposure to prison sentences, but gave counties increased resources to deal with felons on "post-release community supervision." On the North Coast — where about 250 felons have been released back into the community and another 1,500 or so are on formal probation — there have been some growing pains. Anecdotal reports from law enforcement indicate property crimes are going up and the county jail is facing some notable overcrowding issues.

Humboldt's next DA will face a shifting criminal justice landscape in which realignment is the new normal, so the Journal asked each of the candidates to weigh in on the new policy and how their office would work within its confines to keep the county safe and hold criminals accountable.

Dollison said one of the major issues he sees with realignment is that local judges are hesitant to sentence defendants who would have been eligible for prison before realignment to lengthy stints in the local jail because they are aware of the overcrowding problem. Dollison said he would push for increased electronic monitoring as an alternative to jail, and would talk to judges about sentencings, urging them to dole out hefty jail terms in specific types of cases to send a message to the community. He said knowing what cases are prison-eligible under realignment also has to be at the forefront of attorneys' minds during plea negotiations.

Firpo says the county is going through some "dire growing pains" under realignment, but thinks that's in part because the DA's office hasn't changed its approach to prosecutions under the new system. She said the office needs to manage caseloads with an eye on the new policy, putting a priority on securing maximum jail sentences for those repeat offenders who have been emboldened by a perceived lack of consequences under realignment. "There are about 50 names we need to take a very hard line with — plead as charged or go to trial," she said, adding that the benefit of realignment is it gives more resources and tools to deal with those who can be rehabilitated.

Fleming said realignment adds important tools, offering substance abuse and mental health treatment for some offenders who desperately need it and bringing funds to bolster electronic monitoring and work-alternative programs. The new policy has determined that the people who should be filling jails and prisons are violent and habitual offenders, she said, adding that it's up to the district attorney, local law enforcement and the courts to be in better communication about which defendants to focus on placing behind bars. "Communication is critical," she said.

Klein said realignment brings more resources to treat those in need of mental health and substance abuse services. Prosecutors need to exercise compassion, Klein said, in looking at which cases warrant a push for incarceration as opposed to supervised release and diversion into treatment programs. Ultimately, he said, prosecutors need to take a case-by-case approach to constantly make sure they are devoting the office's resources toward the repeat and violent offenders who most impact the community.

After legalization

It appears Humboldt County's next district attorney will be the one to grapple with a post-marijuana-legalization world. A California Field Poll in December found that, for the first time, a majority of likely voters in the state favor legalization and the state seems poised to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington, both of which legalized marijuana for recreational use last year.

The Journal asked each of the four candidates how they think legalization might impact public safety in Humboldt County, and what their role might be in the transition to a post-prohibition state.

Dollison said he'll follow the law, whatever it is, but he hopes the state Legislature steps to the plate and addresses the legalization question before voters do so via ballot initiative. Ideally, Dollison said, the state will follow the model set forth by Colorado, which has a strict system of regulation and oversight in place. He said legalization will ultimately a mixed bag for public safety — robberies and other pot-related crimes will vanish, he said, but legalization may leave a wake of "economic damage" in the county that leaves government with fewer resources and leads to more crimes in other areas.

Firpo said marijuana legalization makes a lot of sense, and would lead to increased oversight and regulation while taking away much of the financial incentive that currently leads people to plant massive grows that divert streams and harm the environment. Firpo said the district attorney's office needs to be looking forward, and shift its focus to the environmental impacts, pursuing civil remedies and cleanup and abatement orders instead of criminal prosecutions. "It just makes a lot more sense," she said.

Fleming said she feels legalization would be positive for Humboldt County, though she said she has some serious concerns about the manner in which it comes. Fleming said she would work proactively with the Legislature and neighboring district attorneys to try to ensure legalization comes with systems of regulation, licensing and oversight in place. She said legalization would draw Humboldt out of the outlaw culture that too often keeps sexual assaults, robberies and other crimes unreported and would ultimately result in a safer county. "I think it will be better for our community," she said.

Klein said California is living in an era of prohibition that goes well beyond the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office and he doesn't want to overstep his bounds. "Nobody knows what will happen but I do know that when somebody gets stoned, they don't say, 'Let's go knock off a liquor store,'" he said, adding that he doesn't think legalization would lead to increased crime. Klein has repeatedly said he would make marijuana cases a low priority in his administration but would vigorously prosecute environmental violations.

Answering the critics

The Journal asked each of the candidates to identify what they see as the biggest criticism of their candidacy, and to respond. Here's what they had to say.

Dollison identified the largest criticism of his campaign as his sanctioning by the California State Bar in 2000, when he stipulated to 16 counts of misconduct in four consolidated cases and saw his law license suspended for 60 days. In the stipulations, Dollison admitted that he failed to perform legal services competently or respond to client inquiries, that he improperly withdrew from representation, failed to return client files and unearned fees and that he failed to cooperate with the bar's investigation. He also lied to at least one of his clients, fabricated a notice of ruling and forged signatures on documents. Shortly after being hired on by the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office in 2006, he told the Times-Standard that he'd gotten in over his head as a new attorney and taken on more than he could handle.

Dollison also resigned his post with the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office under unusual circumstances, after a mistrial was declared in a case he was handling and he was accused of lying to a judge. The motion to dismiss the case — a 2012 burglary case against Sandra Adams — was later denied, with Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson determining Dollison hadn't committed prosecutorial misconduct. However, Watson noted that Dollison's answers to questions under oath about his handling of the case — specifically his failure to disclose an interview between Adams and police to her attorney — were "a bit convoluted, to perhaps say the least," and that what he'd told the trial court "didn't appear to even pass muster on making sense at the time and seemed to be — my terms — a misstatement, a cover up, of some sort," according to transcripts of the hearing.

At a recent debate, Dollison said he chose to resign his post after Gallegos lost faith in him but noted the case against Adams was not dismissed and that she's currently serving a prison sentence. In his interview with the Journal, Dollison addressed his sanctioning by the state bar.

"I learned my lessons from my bar discipline," he said. "These issues have been widely reported but the people who see me practice and know me know that's not me anymore and that I've learned and moved on."

Firpo identified a perceived lack of prosecutorial experience as the biggest criticism of her campaign, as she was admitted to the state bar in May 2008 and has less experience in the courtroom than her opponents. Firpo said she's spent much of her career in the private sector, where she's worked as engineer and managed people, once having to hire 40 people in two months. "We're trying to find a district attorney — someone who will lead the office and manage the budget," she said. "I'm the only one with private industry experience, and it's experience nobody gets in law school and you certainly don't pick up in a courtroom."

Fleming said critics feel that her endorsements from a variety of law enforcement groups could impact her ability to run the district attorney's office. Fleming has received the endorsement of police officers associations throughout the county, as well as those of individual officers. During debates, some candidates have implied those endorsements might influence Fleming's independence in the office and her ability to check and balance law enforcement. One candidate suggested that Fleming has shied away from criticizing the sheriff's office's policy allowing the release of jail inmates in the middle of the night because she's been endorsed by Sheriff Mike Downey. (Downey is not listed as an endorser on Fleming's website.)

"I am a very independent person," Fleming told the Journal. "I completely disagree with that notion." Fleming she's proud of her endorsement by law enforcement, as she said officers spend more time in local courtrooms than the average citizen and she believes the endorsements reflect that officers have found her to be prepared, knowledgeable and devoted to every case she's handled. Fleming added that she's prosecuted officers in the past and wouldn't hesitate to do so again if warranted.

Klein identified his age — 71 — as the largest criticism of his candidacy. But, he said, his age should be an advantage as it's reflective of his depth of experience. Further, Klein pointed to Jerry Brown — California's 76-year-old governor — as evidence that folks "a lot older" than him can be productive leaders. "If it's not a 100-yard dash, age doesn't make a difference," he said.

Meet the Candidates

The four attorneys vying to become Humboldt's next DA respond to an email questionannaire from the Journal.

Allan Dollison

Age? 47

City of residence? Eureka

Where did you grow up? Orange County

How long have you lived in Humboldt County? Almost 8 years

How long have you practiced law? Almost 19 years

Where did you study law? Western State University College of Law

Can you please provide a brief work history? 1996-1997 Private Law Practice. 1998-1999 worked for Manuel Miller & Associates, Woodland Hills. 1999-2002 Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan. 2002-2006 Contract Public Defender for Amador County. 2006-2013 Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County. 2013-present Private Law Practice.

What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign for district attorney? Dean Glaser, Fortuna city councilman; John Grobey, professor emeritus, retired chair of the HSU Economics Department and former Navy SEAL; Mary McCarthy, retired deputy district attorney and current member of the McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees.

Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:

What is your favorite movie? Inception

What is your favorite book? The Great Gatsby

What magazine do you read most regularly? The New Yorker

If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be? "The Long and Winding Road" (The Beatles)

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer? Jack McCoy (from Law & Order)

Who is your favorite real-life lawyer? Thurgood Marshall

Dogs or cats? I like them both. We currently have 2 dogs.

What is your favorite hobby? Reading

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? The power that Superman had to reverse time!

Elan Firpo

Age? 47

City of residence? Eureka

Where did you grow up? Ventura and Humboldt counties

How long have you lived in Humboldt County? I lived here in the 1980s and have been trying to come back ever since. This time I have lived here since 2009

How long have you practiced law? 6 years

Where did you study law? Santa Barbara College of Law

Can you please provide a brief work history? 1984-1988 Escrow Secretary, Humboldt Land Title Company. 1988-1990 Escrow Secretary, Lawyer's Title Company, Fresno. 1990-1991 Engineer with Pacific Gas and Electric. 1991-1993 Engineer with Delco Electronics working on inertial guidance systems. 1993-1998 Project Manager with Applied Magnetics, which produced magnetic recording heads. 1998-2000 Program Manager for Inamed/Medtronics, which produced implantable biomedical devices. 2000-2002 Production Manager with Intri-Plex Technologies, which produced hard drive components. 2005-2008 Certified Law Student, Adam Pearlman Law, Santa Barbara. 2008-2009 Associate, Adam Pearlman Law, Santa Barbara. 2009-present Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County.

What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign for district attorney? John Woolley, Neal Ewald, Yurok Tribe

Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:

What is your favorite movie? Anything with Christopher Walken

What is your favorite book? So many... I have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance several times

What magazine do you read most regularly? Scuba Diving

If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be? "Brave — Say What You Want to Say" (Sara Bareilles)

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer? Atticus Finch

Who is your favorite real-life lawyer? Abraham Lincoln

Dogs or cats? Dogs, but my only pet is a cat named Henry

What is your favorite hobby? Surfing

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Flying

Maggie Fleming

Age? 54

City of residence? Arcata

Where did you grow up? Oakland

How long have you lived in Humboldt County? 20 years

How long have you practiced law? 27 years

Where did you study law? Santa Clara University

Can you please provide a brief work history? 1986-1993 Deputy District Attorney, Contra Costa County. 1994-2011 Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County. 2011-Present Deputy County Counsel, Humboldt County.

What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign for district attorney? I could never choose three. I really appreciate each person who has endorsed me after carefully considering the qualifications and past performances of all the candidates.

Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:

What is your favorite movie? Diary of Anne Frank

What is your favorite book? It is impossible to choose

What magazine do you read most regularly? Washington Monthly and The Economist

If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be? "Standing Outside the Fire" (Garth Brooks)

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer? Atticus Finch

Who is your favorite real-life lawyer? Abe Lincoln (& Rob Burke)

Dogs or cats? Dogs

What is your favorite hobby? Hiking

Arnie Klein

Age? 71

City of residence? Eureka

Where did you grow up? Back East, though I haven't stopped growing. The vast majority of my life I have lived in California.

How long have you lived in Humboldt County? 8 years

How long have you practiced law? 42 years

Where did you study law? Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco

Can you please provide a brief work history? 2006-20012 Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County. 2005-2006 Deputy District Attorney, Monterey County. 2000-2005 Deputy District Attorney, Tulare County. 1980-2000 Private Law Practice in Central, Calif. 1972-1980 Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County

What do you consider the three most important endorsements you have received to date in your campaign for district attorney? The people. I'm a grassroots candidate. Every vote is important to me. There's no top 3 people in my life, with the exception of my fiance.

Now, a few questions to give voters a taste of your personality:

What is your favorite movie? The Lincoln Lawyer

What is your favorite book? It's a two-way tie: Catch 22 and Special Effects

What magazine do you read most regularly? Another two-way tie: Savage Henry and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice Forum

If your campaign had a theme song, what would it be? Rocky theme ("Eye of the Tiger")

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer? Arthur Kirkland played by Al Pacino in And Justice for All

Who is your favorite real-life lawyer? Arnold Lewis Klein

Dogs or cats? Absolutely dogs

What is your favorite hobby? Going to the river bar and shooting cattails

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? To fly above the madding crowd.

Catch the Candidates

Access Humboldt will be broadcasting KHUM's One on One with the Candidates series in the coming days. If you'd like to get a better feel for the county's district attorney candidates, tune in to Channel 11 at one of the following times:

5 to 6 p.m. on May 1

9:30 to 10:30 p.m. on May 2

5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on May 3

7 to 8 p.m. on May 4

Audio files of KHSU's interviews with each of the candidates, as well as of a forum featuring all four candidates, can also be found online at www.khsu.org/audio_archives#DA

The Humboldt Senior Resource Center, 1910 California St. in Eureka, will also be hosting a forum from 2 to 3 p.m. on May 6 focusing on issues of concern for people ages 50 and over. The public is welcome to attend, and questions can be submitted in advance via e-mail to mblackwell@humsenior.org.

County Comparisons

Humboldt County

Population: 135,000

Prosecutors: 13

DA Investigators: 10

General Fund spending on DA's Office: $2.1 million

Lake County

Population: 66,000

Prosecutors: 13

DA Investigators: 6

General Fund spending on DA's Office: $3.3 million

Mendocino County

Population: 87,000

Prosecutors: 18

DA Investigators: 6

General Fund spending on DA's Office: $3.45 million

Source: County budgets and the California Department of Justice.

The Humboldt County DA's Office 2012 Caseload

2,299: Felony cases referred by law enforcement for prosecution

454: cases referred involving violent offenses

4,429: Misdemeanor cases referred by law enforcement for prosecution

9: Cases referred by law enforcement for prosecution involving juveniles

Source: The California Department of Justice.

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