It’s particularly bothersome when these groups lobby with taxpayer money, either directly or indirectly. As I reported here at The Watch last year, that appears to be the case with the Louisiana District Attorneys Association (LDAA), whose chief lobbyist — a prosecutor named Hugo Holland who was forced to resign as assistant district attorney for Caddo Parish several years ago — appears to be paid with public funds from one or more of the state’s parishes. But it can also happen indirectly, such as when prosecutors lobby legislatures themselves while they’re on the clock. As one reform activist put it, if public defenders were using taxpayer dollars to lobby for shorter sentences, it would be on the front page of every newspaper. But these prosecutor groups get away with it, I guess because they’re seen by lawmakers more as knowledgeable policy experts than partisan interest groups. But that they always seem to come down on the side of longer sentences, less leniency and more punitiveness ought to call such assumptions into question.
Rice closes by noting that the Louisiana legislature recently considered two bills that would have held the state’s prosecutors more accountable. If you read this page at all regularly, you know that Louisiana is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to prosecutor misconduct. The state’s defense attorneys and their assistants have a long history of Brady violations, including in death-sentence cases, and it it has one of the highest wrongful conviction rates in America. Rice notes that after opposition from the LDAA, neither bill made it out of committee.