The Duties and Discretionary Power of District Attorneys

Jonathan wrote last month about reform-minded sheriffs in North Carolina and the actions they can and cannot take with respect to enforcement of federal immigration laws. Reform-minded prosecutors also have been in the news of late. Prosecutors in St. Louis and Kansas City announced last year their plans not to prosecute marijuana possession cases, subject to certain exceptions. Boston’s newly elected district attorney, Rachel Rollins, campaigned on a promise to decline to prosecute fifteen enumerated charges, including shoplifting, larceny under $250, trespassing, and stand-alone resisting arrest charges, absent exceptional circumstances. Closer to home, new Durham district attorney Satana Deberry has said that she does not want her office to prosecute misdemeanors or low-level felonies that originate in schools. The national discussion about these and other suggested reforms has included debate about the extent of district attorneys’ discretion to determine which cases will be prosecuted in their districts. Just what are the duties of a district attorney in North Carolina? And how much discretion may a district attorney exercise in carrying out those duties?

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An Appreciation of the Many Roles and Responsibilities of a District Court Judge

In December, the School of Government held the first week of orientation for new district court judges. The class included thirty-one new judges. Most of the judges took the bench January 1, though a handful were sworn in last year to fill vacancies by gubernatorial appointment. One of the challenges in creating an orientation program … Read more