Prosecutorial activism — an insidious movement that undermines our safety

A progressive movement to install activist prosecutors across the country, and here in Minnesota, undermines a critical balance in our criminal justice system and threatens our collective safety.  

The criminal justice system works best for all when there is a balance of power. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges must all work ethically to maintain this balance. Each must judiciously use their limited discretion as it was intended. No one would argue for a defense attorney to abdicate their role in providing the best possible defense for their client, or for a judge to make rulings that are out of line with the rule of law. Yet, with increasing frequency activist prosecutors are unethically abdicating their mandate and abusing their discretion by not prosecuting swaths of crimes, using legally obtained evidence, or advocating for bail or incarceration in many instances.   

This activism throws the system off balance and is ultimately harmful to public safety.

As if this trend wasn’t bad enough, it is disturbingly against the will of the people. It is both an ingenious and insidious movement being supported through progressive PACs that have spent tens of millions of dollars on campaigns to influence the elections of activist prosecutors. It’s an end-around movement that subverts the legislative process of establishing laws and defining punishment — all in the name of “reform.” Riverside County, California District Attorney Mike Hestrin describes the situation well — “I don’t see them as reformers. What they’re after is to destroy the system, the criminal justice system, that they very deeply misunderstand. This is not progressive. It’s not reform. It’s just politics and ideology-driven.”

Locally, Ramsey County Attorney Choi, Hennepin County Attorney Freeman, and Minnesota Attorney General Ellison have all shown that they are completely in favor of the ideology of prosecutorial activism. While Freeman is leaving office after this year, one of the leading candidates to replace him is the former embattled Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty. Moriarty shows no caution in espousing the activist platform — proudly prioritizing “reform” of the Minneapolis Police Department above employing the resources of the Office to prosecute the criminals who are destroying our metro area with impunity.

Minnesotans concerned about public safety must prioritize this issue above all others. Two important ways to do this are: 1) Make informed decisions and reject electing activists to serve in our vitally important roles as prosecutors. 2) Support legislative efforts that restrict prosecutorial discretion and hold prosecutors accountable in their mandate to prosecute crime.