LOS ANGELES - A Los Angeles judge issued a preliminary injunction on Monday against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, stating that he "cannot order his prosecutors to ignore laws that protect the public from repeat offenders."
Judge James Chalfant's injunction will restrict Gascón from refusing to prosecute California's three strikes law and will restrict him from dismissing special circumstance allegations without legal grounds.
"The District Attorney's disregard of the Three Strikes law 'plead and prove' requirement is unlawful, as is requiring deputy DA's to seek dismissal of pending sentencing enhancements without a lawful basis," the ruling reads.
Just hours after he was sworn into office, Gascón announced several reform directives, including barring prosecutors from seeking the death penalty or filing most sentencing enhancements that can increase a defendants' prison term.
The ruling is a victory for the union representing county prosecutors, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, which sued Gascón over his new directives, arguing that they violate state law.
"We are extremely happy with the judge's ruling today," said vice president of the union Eric Siddal on Monday. "I think a lot of deputy DAs are very relieved."
Pictured: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (FOX 11)
The union hailed the judge's decision, saying it was based "on what the law is and not what an officeholder thinks it should be" when it comes to sentencing repeat offenders.
"One of the problems with Mr. Gascón’s directives was it kind of put us in this impossible position of do we follow his directives, or do we follow the law, and the court clearly said well, you need to follow the law," Siddal explained.
Deputy DA Jonathan Hatami has been one of Gascón's most vocal critics. He had previously announced he will refuse to follow Gascón's directives. Hatami said the judge's ruling is vindication.
"For me, personally, to have a judge get up there and say you know what, he was telling you, Jon, and he was telling all those DA’s to go into court and do something that was wrong," Hatami said. "Do something that was illegal, something that was unethical."
But lawyer Robert E. Dugdale, on behalf of Gascón and the District Attorney's Office, said the ruling was not fully in favor of the union.
"The judge did not enjoin the D.A.'s policy prohibiting deputy district attorneys from filing most sentencing enhancements in new cases," Dugdale said. "However, he enjoined application of most aspects of the remaining directives."
Judge Chalfant noted in his ruling that Gascón never mentions anything about the crime victims.
"The District Attorney’s opposition to [the lawsuit] fails to mention victims, there is not a single reference to a concern for victims in the sentencing process. The first three special directives also fail to mention victims," the judge said in the ruling.
Gascón could not immediately be reached for comment.