Del Norte’s new district attorney is set to be sworn in today once the Board of Supervisors vote to approve the appointment at its meeting this morning.
Dale Trigg, who won the DA spot in the election on June 3, will be starting his DA duties early in order to take over for Acting District Attorney Katie Micks, who has been filling in for former DA Jon Alexander since he was disbarred in April 2013. Typically, a newly elected official wouldn’t begin his or her term until January, but in a letter to the Board, Trigg requested an appointment as early as possible so he could fill Alexander’s remaining unexpired term and sidestep unnecessary case conflicts. County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said Trigg can start as soon as he’s sworn in by Judge Chris Doehle around noon.
“It was pretty obvious that the best scenario was to bring him in per his request as early as possible,” Sarina said. “It just works out best overall.”
Trigg’s appointment required cooperation between a few different county departments as well as the Office of the Attorney General, Sarina said, in order to minimize the conflicts that typically come with such a transition.
“It takes a little bit of coordination, which we started as soon as it became official, with the anticipation that Mr. Trigg would be restricted in what cases he could take due to the public defender contract,” Sarina said.
Before his appointment today, Trigg was working as a county-contracted public defender, defending some of the very people he potentially could now be prosecuting for the county. Sarina said that while Trigg’s early appointment was done for efficiency’s sake, it was also imperative to avoid these conflicts.
“Number one is justice,” Sarina said. “We have to make sure justice is served on both sides so there’s an equality that’s the same as any time when you have a public defender’s side and a district attorney’s side. It isn’t about dollars and cents when you’re talking about the justice system; that process is set, and we don’t step in the middle of that process.”
Sarina said that the attorney general, as the overseer of district attorneys in the state, will pick up some of those conflicts while others will be reassigned. When Alexander moved from his public defender role to fill his newly elected position as DA in January 2011, the Attorney General’s Office assigned an attorney to take over his conflicts, which Sarina said might happen again. Such an assignment wouldn’t come at a cost to local taxpayers, he said.
Trigg’s early start sparks a series of shifts in Del Norte’s legal realm, which include the appointment of two new contracted public defenders, as well as Micks falling back into her former role as assistant district attorney.
The two new contracted public defenders, Rebecca Linkous, currently a deputy district attorney, and Karen Olson, a local private attorney, were nominated for the roles by current contracted public defenders Darren McElfresh and Leroy Davies. They’ll begin their year-long contracts on July 1, once the Board votes to authorize them, which is also on today’s meeting agenda.
Linkous’ nomination is par for the course, considering she was chosen to replace Trigg after he terminated his contract in light of his new prosecutorial role. However, Olson’s contract comes as a result of a restructuring of the way the county contracts public defenders. Last year the county moved to a structure that was built around having three full-time contracted public defenders — Trigg, Davies and McElfresh — to defend all types of cases, as well as two part-time defenders who were called on for misdemeanors.
Sarina said that this year the county, acting on a recommendation from the current public defenders, is returning to a four-person full-time public defender format, a move that brings Olson on board, in order to balance the workload.
“The smaller cases, the courts were sending those to the more temporary attorneys and putting more of a workload on them because the idea was that they not get a bunch of felony cases,” Sarina said. “In order to balance it all out, the public defenders proposed and we accepted going back to the four full-timers. It just seems to work a little bit better.”
Supervisors meet at 10 a.m. today at the Flynn Administrative Center, 981 H St., Crescent City. Agendas and staff reports can be found at www.countyofdelnorte.us.