by Mark Rogers
I’m a lawyer, a former public defender, and a former professor. I resigned this year as an adjunct professor at LSUS. I have taught Human Resource Management for Nonprofit and Public Organizations in their Masters in Nonprofit Administration program since 2005.
When explaining law and policy to my students, I tell them that all legal principles can be extracted from our most basic unit of government, the family, and applied across the board all the way up to national government. Principles such as justice, fairness, due process, and punishment are the same for a family as they are for the city, parish, state, and federal government. These principles can be analyzed and applied through inductive logic. Families are our most basic and most important unit of government.
A good D.A. is like a father-figure in our parish. The D.A. administers discipline, certainly, but tempered with wisdom, patience, honesty, and a desire for things to get better for all involved. That is justice.
Honesty, Open Mind. As D.A. of Caddo Parish, it is important to me that my office be known for honesty. No more “Hide the ball”. No more voicemail hell. No more saying “Open file discovery” while holding back evidence favorable to the defendant. No more seeking of convictions while playing fast and loose with the rules. No more risking getting convictions overturned on appeal.
A prosecutor, unlike any other attorney, has dual roles in our justice system: first, to prosecute cases and second, to protect the rights of citizens, even those that are being prosecuted. All too often, prosecutors focus on the first and ignore the second. Not in my office.
First of all, we are going to have real, true open file discovery, not just “open file discovery” in name while actually being edited open file discovery in practice. I believe all the evidence for and against should be presented. Full open disclosure, no secrets. That is my goal.
Equal Access, Open Door. As D.A. of Caddo Parish, it is important to me that my office be known to be accessible to all. Not just the rich. Not just the attorneys. Not just to the victims. Open to all. First, we need real, live people to answer the phone, not just a place to leave a voicemail. Next, I want scheduled office hours/conference dates with a judge and A.D.A. (Assistant District Attorney)available to meet with defense attorneys so that cases can be discussed and resolved. I know Judge Ramona Emanuel does this, and I believe others would be willing to follow if the policy were consistently implemented. Having a set time and place to meet with necessary parties is immensely helpful. Finally, I want name badges for A.D.As so that people will know they are A.D.As, know their names, and know what section they serve. That way people (attorneys, defendants, police, victims, etc) won’t have to run around searching for A.D.As in the courthouse. A simple step like that removes a huge amount of fear and uncertainty from the system for the people who are not accustomed to court. Equal access requires an enormous amount of patience and courage. It’s way easier to hide, or tell a person “No” than it is to help.
Honest, Equal Access to evidence and assistance, Open Office. That is what I mean by Open Office. An open office focuses on justice and the protection of all people’s rights, not just winning trials and getting convictions.
We are going to make mistakes. That is what people do, and this system is a people system. I want us to be open and learn from those mistakes to improve our actions in the future. We have to lead by example. It will take a long time for us to get from a system that feeds on rage, lack of communication, and vengeful infliction of suffering, to a system that nourishes patience, honesty, and meaningful discipline.
It won’t be easy. I have been working on these issues in my personal life, my entire life, and I myself slip sometimes. For example, the other day, I was cut off by an out-of-state car in downtown traffic. I blared my horn in a show of self-righteous anger, because I was right, and I wanted them to know they were wrong. Then I felt guilty. They are from out-of state. They are probably lost. I pulled up to them at the next light, smiled, waved, and motioned for them to roll down the window. The driver looked at me sheepishly, rolled down his window, and before he could speak, I yelled, “I’m sorry I honked at you! Are you lost?” “Yes! We are from Chicago!” “Where are you trying to go?” “Wal-Mart.” “Follow me.” And then I lead them to Wal-Mart.
I started off with vengeance, hatred, and a need to punish. I turned to honesty, open-mindedness, and a need to solve the problem. Helping those people helped the situation, and made me feel better than venting my anger.
We can do that in Caddo Parish. Sure there are a number of serious cases that have to be litigated and punished harshly. There always will be. But the vast majority of the remainder of cases could be resolved more quickly and fairly with open discussion, increased communication of information, and a clear understanding of how the discipline administered furthers the goal of making Caddo Parish safe, and helping Caddo Parish grow. If we can follow these principles consistently, we will all feel better and live safer in the long run.
We can choose. We can make things better, or we can make things worse. It’s our choice.
Cut the Nonsense. [Mark Rogers Campaign website]
Editors note: Rogers has made public an aggressively novel way for Caddo to address marijuana possession in small amounts. It will certainly catch the attention of many citizens and move the discussion along a new path. It also may aid in addressing funding issues for others.
This is part of a continuing educational series of articles allowing all candidates space to explain their reasons for running for office as well as addressing questions voters should find valuable. This link will appear at the bottom of all articles in this series and allow easy access to previous articles.