On November 3, 2009, the City of Seattle voted to oust two term incumbent Thomas Carr from his post as City Attorney and in his place, elected Peter Holmes. While the future impact of election results can never be known immediately, it appears at first glance as though the residents of Seattle have elected a person who values negotiating solutions instead of litigating them. After eight years of dealing with the City of Seattle under the direction of his predecessor this would be a welcomed change of policy. And while it is possible that with respect to DUI cases, there will be no change in formal policy, Mr. Holmes’ stated position on two other high profile criminal areas, marijuana and domestic violence, it appears likely that there will be an overhaul of this area as well. Mr. Holmes has gone on record as saying he will not prosecute marijuana charges. He has also suggested that domestic violence advocates should be taken out of the prosecutor’s office and made independent, so as to serve the needs of victims as opposed to prosecutors.
The Seattle City Attorney’s office has probably the lowest attrition rate of lawyers than any similar office in the state. I have been practicing since 1993 and many of the attorneys who were with the City then are still there now. Mr. Holmes has as knowledgeable and experienced group of prosecutors as you will find in any court of limited jurisdiction within the state. Yet under Mr. Carr, the city developed bright line rules for the negotiation and settlement of DUI cases. Autonomy was stripped from these capable lawyers and justice was painted with a broad stroke. Not every case should be treated the same and certainly not every DUI charge should lead to a DUI conviction. By allowing his attorneys to look at cases on an individualized basis again, it should lead to more negotiated settlements, reduced costs to government and an increase in “justice”. DUI will still be the most serious charge prosecuted in Seattle Municipal Court. No matter who the City Attorney is, DUI will always be treated as such.
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