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DA candidates see hands-on role at the top

How important is it for the district attorney to prosecute cases himself or herself? If the district attorney does prosecute cases directly, does that take away from proper management of the DA's office?

Editor's note: This is the last in a question and answer series with candidates for Jackson County district attorney, leading up to the May 15 primary. The other questions and answers can be found at www.mailtribune.com/politics.

Beth Heckert

If the district attorney does not prosecute cases directly, it will take away from proper management of the office.

The district attorneys in most counties in Oregon have a broad base of prosecutorial experience and continue to prosecute cases on occasion. I think our new district attorney must have the experience to lead the office by example, no matter how complicated the case.

When the staff are looking to the district attorney for leadership, that district attorney needs to be the professional they respect. That respect is earned by handling thousands of cases of every kind over many years. You also maintain your knowledge of the law by being immersed in it on a regular basis.

We have 45 full-time staff in the office, all working toward one goal. That goal is to hold criminals accountable. For the office to function at maximum efficiency and capacity, your district attorney needs to be able to handle cases. When you prosecute a case, you interact directly with the police, witnesses, victims, court personnel and members of the community. It is that hands-on connection that enhances your administration of the office, it does not deter from it.

Beth Heckert, a prosecutor with Jackson County for 23 years, was promoted to chief deputy in 2000. She is married and has three sons. Candidate website: BethHeckertforDA.com.

David Hoppe

It is extremely important for the elected district attorney to prosecute cases. Albert Schweitzer once said — "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."

The 19 deputy district attorneys in the office are trial attorneys first and foremost and they want to be led by a trial attorney, not simply "managed" by an administrator. I will lead by example and personally prosecute those who inflict heinous crimes upon our fellow citizens. I will co-counsel all Jessica's Law and murder cases.

I believe the citizens of Jackson County value my trial skills and want me to try the tough cases; it would be a waste of my talents to become just another government bureaucrat.

Prosecuting cases directly will not detract from my ability to properly manage the office, it will enhance it. Historically there have been fewer than 10 Jessica's Law and murder cases every year, and some of those will resolve prior to trial. The opportunity to train ambitious young prosecutors during these big trials is priceless. We learn by doing.

I have the right experience to actually lead the office, develop attorneys and keep Jackson County safe by prosecuting the tough cases.

Dave Hoppe is a career prosecutor. Law enforcement named him Oregon's first Child Abuse Prosecutor of the Year. He is married and has two children. Candidate website: davehoppe4da.com.

Rob Patridge

The most important role of the district attorney is chief law enforcement officer, leading the criminal justice system.

Sometimes, that role will mean personally prosecuting important cases. The current DA has personally prosecuted only a handful of cases over the last decade.

To effectively lead, the DA must balance the merits of trying a case personally with the key duties of the office.

With a staff of 45 employees, including 19 attorneys, and a $4.8 million budget, management experience to effectively deploy those taxpayer-funded resources is vital.

Advocating for stable funding for the justice system is also crucial so that we have the resources to carry out the sentences after we get a conviction. The DA must lead the criminal justice community, a complex group of law enforcement, judicial and community organizations that serve victims and survivors.

The big picture that the DA has to keep in mind is reducing crime and keeping our community safe. It's not likely to be achieved by trying too many cases yourself. To use an analogy, it's terrific for a police chief to write tickets or get involved with a case, but doing the job well takes far more than that.

Rob Patridge has served as deputy district attorney, general counsel for Rogue Valley Manor, state representative and a Medford City Council member and is currently general counsel for Congressman Greg Walden. Candidate website: robpatridge.com.