D.C. Corporation Counsel Judith W. Rogers yesterday attacked a D.C. Bar report that sharply criticized the city's prosecution of juvenile crime as containing "numerous gratuitous and unsupported statements" as well as inaccurate information.
The report, completed last month by a bar committee, alleged "consistent and persistent understaffing, undersupport, undermanagement and undernourishment" in the juvenile division of the corporation counsel's office and said that such shortcomings "must be seen as a policy decision on the part of those who manage the office."
"Those are very serious allegations," said Rogers, the District's top legal officer. "If there's anything clear since I've been here, it is that we have focused on the administrative deficiencies." She said the office had hired an experienced administrative officer, obtained a Justice Department grant for a management study and had secured increased spending for training programs.
Criticism of the corporation counsel's office came at a particularly sensitive time as city officials and some members of Congress are fighting to transfer prosecutorial control of all local criminal cases to the local government. Opponents of the transfer have cited the city's budgetary problems and alleged inefficiency in the corporation counsel's office as the reason the city should not take on additional criminal prosecution responsibilities.
Rogers said that by not creditiing the corporation counsel's office with its accomplishments and focusing only on negative aspects, the bar committee failed to recognize What's at stake for the community."
The corporation counsel's office, acting as the city's attorney general, defends the city in civil lawsuits and prosecutes traffic cases. However, it also prosecutes virtually all juvenile court cases in the city. Adult crimes are handled by the U.S. attorney's office here.
"We have acknowledged the problems, and done something about them, and that doesn't come through in the report," Rogers said in an interview. Rogers said that she never was interviewed by those writing the report and that letter she sent to the D.C. Court System Study Committee -- the 40-member panel of lawyers and others who did the study seemingly were not taken into account. The three-year study was completed last fall, and sent to the full bar last month.
The report criticized the corporation counsel's office forfailing to attend important juvenile disposition court hearings, for plea bargaining without written guidelines and and recruiting lawyers through an "ad hoc system" that invited "possible patronage abuse."
Rogers contended yesterday that because of budgetary reasons, the office is understaffed, and "there is no way we are going to be able to attend those hearings." She also disputed the report's statement that such disposition hearings were "the most critical phase of a juvenile proceeding." And, she said, city attorneys did attend the hearings in more serious cases.
Rogers said the office has prepared written guidelines for plea bargains and, contrary to the report, recruited at local law schools. "There has been no evidence of political patronage," she said, disputing the hiring criticism.
Committee members who prepared the report said yesterday that comments Rogers sent to the group were taken into consideration. "The claims [rogers] made were promises," said one attorney. "I'm not going to apologize for what we said in the report." Charles . Horsky, chairman of the report committee, defended it, saying it was "an accurate statement of what we found. I will stand by the report."
Rogers, who was appointed by Mayor Marion Barry in April 1979, also called into question statistical information that the committee used, which she said was inaccurate in a number of cases. Rogers also noted that she had a special interest in juvenile justice, having clerked for a juvenile court judge and worked on juvenile code revisions in the D.C. Court Reform Act of 1970 while she was a U.S. Justice Department attorney.