DA Candidate Carlton: Benito Lost the Public’s Trust

Dear readers: Here’s the second installment in A News Cafe’s candidate statements series for the June 8, 2010 primary election. Read opponent Jerry Benito’s contribution here. -Editor


Candidate statement from Steve Carlton:

The most powerful person in our criminal justice system is the District Attorney. Due to the great power and responsibility entrusted to the District Attorney, it is imperative for the District Attorney to possess integrity and judgment. If the District Attorney does not possess these qualities, serious problems will exist in the criminal justice system and public trust will be lost.

Shasta County has serious problems in its criminal justice system.  Felony conviction rates have consistently fallen below the state average every year since 2003.  This means that guilty people are going unpunished and innocent people have been unnecessarily prosecuted.  We have seen inconsistent application of the law in making charging decisions.  This inconsistency and poor judgment in deciding which cases get prosecuted has resulted in a loss of public trust.  The District Attorney’s office has also seen an exodus of many of its most experienced prosecutors.  Like too many government offices, the current District Attorney’s office is top heavy, as the D.A. and his top assistant do not even go to court or prosecute cases themselves.

I have the integrity, judgment and experience to fix these problems and restore public trust and confidence in our District Attorney’s office. As your District Attorney from 1981 to 1990, I have a proven record of assembling and maintaining a professional, effective and ethical D.A.’s office. I recruited and retained experienced attorneys and made charging decisions based only on the facts and the law. I also have the personal experience of trying over 300 cases while working on both sides of the justice system.

Recruitment of experienced attorneys and adequate training and supervision of newer prosecutors must be a priority.  I will place the most experienced attorneys in critical “filter” positions. These filter positions determine which cases are filed and which cases are brought to trial.  By placing emphasis in these areas, we will make the best use of our limited resources and focus on the cases that need to be tried.

I will lead by example, working every day as a prosecutor, and I will require all of my staff to do the same.  Under my leadership, the emphasis will be on public safety, the wise use of our limited public resources, and the equal application of the law to all.  I have always taken most seriously the oath to support and defend our constitution, including the right to bear arms and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  I will never sacrifice your civil liberties for any reason.

These are just some of the reasons why I have been endorsed by every other living former District Attorney of Shasta County and more than 30 former Shasta County prosecutors.  I am proud to have the endorsement of retired Sheriff Jim Pope, as well as retired judges and most of the legal community.  It is time for a change in our District Attorney’s office and I am asking for your support.


Bio: Steve Carlton, Former District Attorney of Shasta County, 1981 – 1990

As a Shasta County native, I care deeply about the community in which I was raised and in which I raised my family. I am committed to assuring that this community remains a safe place for all of our citizens.

My parents, Dan and Carol Carlton, settled in Redding in 1935.  My father, a native of Siskiyou County, began practicing law in our community, and, together with my mother, they began a family. I attended our local public schools and graduated from Shasta Union High School in 1961. I then attended Santa Clara University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1965. After completing my undergraduate work, I continued my studies at Santa Clara University School of Law and graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree in 1968. In January of 1969 I was admitted to the California State Bar and began my career as an attorney.

After being admitted to practice law in the State of California, I moved to Fresno to begin my law career with the District Attorney’s Office of Fresno County. It was also in Fresno that I began my family. A few years after joining the Fresno D.A.’s office, I met Terri, my wife of nearly 40 years. After five years of marriage, Terri and I decided to enrich our lives by having children. First we welcomed a daughter, Danielle, and then a son, Tim. Unfortunately, our plans of a third child were shelved after our second-born proved to be quite a handful!

After serving five years as a Deputy District Attorney, I left the Fresno office and began work in private practice.  In January of 1979 I returned to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office as the Assistant District Attorney. In my capacity as Assistant District Attorney I was responsible for managing the daily operations of an office of 35 attorneys.

In June of 1981 I was given the opportunity to return home with my young family and serve as the District Attorney of Shasta County.  As District Attorney of Shasta County I built an outstanding office based on judgment and integrity. After nearly ten years as the District Attorney, and after careful thought and reflection, I chose not to seek re-election in 1990. In January of 1991 I entered the private practice of law.

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