This November, the voters in Arapaho, Douglas, Elbert & Lincoln counties will vote for a new District Attorney to represent them in Colorado's 18th Judicial District. This will be the first time since 1968 that the new District Attorney will not be a current employee within the D.A.'s office. Because of the intense community attention upon the single case of the Aurora theater shooting massacre, the local media has repeatedly commented on the strong possibility that the new elected D.A. will be the person to make the final decision as to whether the death penalty will be pursued.
There are two candidates on this November's ballot in this D.A. race. The Republican Party nominee is George Brauchler, a former prosecutor in the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office, and the former Army Chief Prosecutor at Fort Carson and the Northern District of Iraq, who was recently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. The Democrat Party nominee is Ethan Feldman, a recently retired Arapaho County Court Judge, who worked as an Assistant District Attorney for D.A. Bob Gallagher from 1974 to 1980, when he left the DA's Office for private practice.
The community has had several opportunities to meet George Brauchler during the Republican primary contest during public "debates" between four candidates who proceeded through the Republican Party's assembly process. Local attorney Robert Wareham, Assistant District Attorney John Topolonicki and Deputy District Attorney Leslie Hansen were soundly defeated by Brauchler, who was the only candidate to be placed on the ballot through the Assembly process. Despite being stunned by the loss at Assembly, Hansen (who was widely believed by party insiders to be the anointed heir apparent of Carol Chambers) managed to gather enough petition signatures to force Brauchler into a primary election, where Hansen lost for a second time to Brauchler. As Feldman faced no challengers within his party, the field for November was set.
Over the summer, the community has seen both Brauchler and Feldman at a number of various public events, including summer parades and speaking events. Recently, two debates were sponsored by the League of Women Voters - one in Highlands Ranch and a second in Arapaho County. Both candidates has clearly demonstrated a high level of professional demeanor in these events, as the debates have had the highest level of cordiality and respect between the candidates. At the Highlands Ranch debate, George Brauchler pointed to Feldman and stated "This is a good man. I just think I'd be a better D.A.".
Which man would be the best person to lead this office into a new phase of history? Indeed, this is the question. As neither person comes from the inside the office, the examination of each man's background, experience, and character would certainly be helpful, but I suggest the most important question is this: What qualities are most important in the position of the District Attorney? Unless the objective onlooker is aware of the important needs of the office, and the skill sets they have to offer how would one be able to judge the applicants?
WHAT DOES THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE NEED IN THEIR NEW LEADER?
I would have the following insights to offer for your consideration as to the qualities needed in the elected District Attorney.
What is "Leadership"?
Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith of Genentech states that, "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen." According to Ken Ogbonnia, "effective leadership is the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals.
RELEVANT RECENT EXPERIENCE
An attorney without prosecutorial experience simply cannot do this job. The field of law has so many different specialty areas that expecting even a great attorney in one field to jump to a leadership position in another field would be like asking John Elway to take over coaching the Colorado Rockies. And as the substantive criminal law in Colorado is a dynamic and ever changing subject that we must be honest and make it clear that the prosecutorial experience within Colorado must be recent experience. I believe one of the biggest differences between these candidates is the recency of their prosecutorial experience. Lets compare and contrast the two candidates with this issue in mind.
Judge Feldman was a prosecutor in the Office of the District Attorney for Colorados 18th Judicial District. He left that office to go into private practice and has never worked as a prosecutor since. That was in 1980 - yes, 32 years ago. In order to provide your with a better sense of time relationship, all of the following events occurred in 1980:
I cannot over-emphasize the problems Feldman would face in trying to lead a prosecutors office after he has had 32 years out of this ever-increasing complicated specialty field of law. As a prosecutor who started his career in 1989, I find it virtually impossible to describe to the average citizen the substantive changes and increased challenges that have occurred in this complicated specialty field of law since that time. Two examples would serve to illuminate and inform a: "The CSI Effect" and "Law & Order". "The CSI Effect" refers to the several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. It is not only the substance of the science involved, but the manner in which such facts are presented. The special effects wizards of Hollywood have an increasingly significant role in such shows so that audiences now just take it for granted that fingerprints can be instantly displayed in a holographic 3-D display and cross-checked against every fingerprint taken by any law enforcement agency, that graphic artists can quickly and inexpensively create a HD quality animated movie of the crime.
Second, Law & Order refers to the increased number of American television shows and movies depicting fictional story lines and dramatic acting scenes inside courtrooms, which have given rise to a belief that jurors have a misplaced expectation of prosecuting attorneys to be as visually impressive as Tom Cruise in a Navy JAGC uniform, and as automatically dramatic of an oral advocate as Law & Order actor Sam Waterston can appear to be - after multiple rehearsals of a fictional script written by a team of professional writers, multiple takes of filming a scene, and professional editing of those visual images with dramatic musical score to cue the audiences reaction.
Today, 32 years after Feldman last worked as a prosecutor, todays prosecuting attorneys must be more than experts in the substantive criminal law, but they must be part Shakespearan actor and part high-tech showman, seamlessly using the latest computer graphic displays to enhance their oral argument to get a jurys attention and keep it. Todays challenges in the courtroom require leaders who can demonstrate, train, and lead younger prosecutors through such challenges through their own mastery of these needed modern prosecutorial skills. The bottom-line is that despite being a nice guy and well-respected attorney, even Perry Mason would be a completely ineffective leader of young prosecutors working in todays modern courtroom. Could you image Perry Mason trying to use computer graphic software programs while explaining the side-by-side comparisons of visual 3-D models of two different DNA samples to a jury?
As George Brauchlers campaign makes clear, his experience as a prosecutor is not only much fresher, but is more developed as a leader and trainer of other prosecutors to meet the highest demands of the modern courtroom:
PROSECUTION: George has served as a Deputy District Attorney, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, military prosecutor, and most recently, as the Chief of Military Justice—the chief prosecutor—for Fort Carson, the 4th Infantry Division, and the entire U.S. Division-North in Iraq. He returned from Iraq in October of 2011 and announced his candidacy for the District Attorneys Office in November of 2012. George has prosecuted every type of criminal case from DUI to murder, including the only felony cases from the Columbine tragedy. George prosecuted cases in Jefferson County for 11 years. He successfully prosecuted the two men who sold the Tec-DC9 handgun to Klebold and Harris, the Columbine High School shooters; they were the only two felony cases that grew out of the Columbine massacre. George has handled many high profile and difficult cases in his prosecution career. In the Army, he sought death penalty charges against a soldier who murdered a fellow soldier.
MILITARY: As a U.S. Army Reserve officer, George has successfully led teams of men and women, attorneys and paralegals, both here and in Iraq. George has trained local and military prosecutors from the active duty U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps across the U.S. and all over the world. George has been selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and has been handpicked to supervise legal teams across 6 states in the Army Reserve. He has been handpicked to serve as an Adjunct Professor in the Criminal Law Department of The Judge Advocate General (JAG) Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia. The U.S. Naval Justice School and the U.S. Army Trial Counsel Assistance Program regularly call upon George to provide training to their prosecutors, including training that takes place overseas.
George has served in several leadership positions in the U.S. Army Reserve, including OIC (Officer in Charge) of a JAG Reserve team at Ft. Carson, and the reserve Chief of Legal Assistance for the 25th Infantry Division. He earned an Army ROTC Scholarship to attend college at Boulder and graduated as an Airborne-qualified, Distinguished Military Graduate, with a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Georges military training is an under-appreciated asset. Ask yourself this important question: Is leadership an exclusively innate quality, or it a quality that can be enhanced, honed, and developed? As a military veteran myself, I contend the American military leadership training is among the best in the world, and Georges personal attributes for leadership has been highly honed. In the book, Why the Military Produces Great Leaders by Colonel Tom Kolditz, the author makes some good insights into the U.S. militarys capacity to develop leadership skills in their officers: First, in all services, military leadership qualities are formed in a progressive and sequential series of carefully planned training, educational, and experiential events—far more time-consuming and expensive than similar training in industry or government. Secondly, military leaders tend to hold high levels of responsibility and authority at low levels of our organizations. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, military leadership is based on a concept of duty, service, and self-sacrifice; we take an oath to that effect.
Ask anyone with military experience if they had the experience of having officers in their command who motivated them and made them strive to achieve higher goals than they believed possible. George Brauchler has that inate charisma of leadership that has been sharpened to an amazingly high level through his military training.
LEADER & TRAINER OF PROSECUTORS
George Brauchler has been a national trainer and lecturer for prosecution organizations on the national level for these organizations: the U.S. Army Trial Counsel (Prosecutor) Assistance Program, the U.S. Naval Justice School, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National College of District Attorneys. On the state level, George Brauchler has been a trainer for State prosecution organizations across the U.S., including Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, and Delaware. George also serves as an adjunct professor teaching courses in trial advocacy and litigation technology a the University of Colorado School of Law, and the University of Denver College of Law George continues to serve as a regular faculty member at the Jefferson County Sheriffs Academy and the Red Rocks Law Enforcement Academy.
RECOGNIZED EXPERTISE & MODERN TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION:
George is an adjunct professor at both CU and DU Law Schools teaching the classes he created on Litigation Technology and Jury Selection, as well as a past adjunct professor at the U.S. Army JAG School, and a regular faculty member of the National College of District Attorneys. George has been an early courtroom technology innovator, the first prosecutor to use a computer Power Point presentation in a criminal trial in Jefferson County.
WHY DOES RELEVANT LEADERSHIP MATTER?
The District Attorneys Office for the 18th Judicial District has had loss of more than 50% of the offices prosecutors in the past 3 years. The current administration has offered several excuses for this glaring problem, but the fact has been our police officers and sheriff deputies frequently discover that each time they go to court, a new prosecutor is handling their case for the first time, due to the constant turn over and loss of attorneys in the office.
Being a prosecutor is a tough job long hours, heavy caseloads and a constant pressure to perform to the highest levels of expertise, ethics, and justice. What the current administration lacked was true high-level competent inspirational leadership that provided quality training and the clear grant of authority for discretionary decisions to the lowest level. Georges prosecutorial experience, military leadership training, and expertise as a trainer would turn this problem around - placing an emphasis on recruiting the best prosecutors and offer training as an incentive to attract and KEEP more talent and experience.
As the head of a large team of prosecutors charged with handling literally thousands of criminal cases each and every year, the District Attorney must be a strong leader. The District Attorney must be able to inspire prosecutors with various levels of relevant recent experience to overachieve in the performance of their duties and to willingly commit themselves to the challenging mission of the office. Leadership in the District Attorneys office means making tough decisions based on what is right for the community, not what is politically advantageous.
In watching the recent start of the NFL's regular season, local Bronco fans suffered from nervous anticipation in watching their new QB Peyton Manning play in an orange jersey at Mile High Stadium. The leadership Manning has to offer his team was palpable even to the most causal observer. While last year's Bronco's team also had an amazing leader in Tim Tebow, it was Tebow's lack of experience as a NFL-style QB that hampered his team's capacity to be as effective as it could have otherwise been. The limited playbook available for Tebow's offense hampered their versatility and provided a weaker threat. Likewise, an office full of courtroom prosecutors who go to battle every day needs relevant leadership from a Quarterback who understands today's game, not the game played by Craig Morton - the Denver Broncos quarterback in 1980. Similarly, this November, the citizens of Arapaho, Douglas, Elbert & Lincoln counties have the opportunity to elect a young, energetic, dynamic leader who can move this important office forward with his expertise in the modern courtroom - not the courtroom of 1980.
Finally, these citizens should consider the opinion of the leaders of their top county law enforcement agency. While Arapaho County Sheriff Greyson has decided not to endorse either candidate, Douglas County Sheriff Dave Weaver, Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap, & Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Nestor have endorsed George Brauchler. Oh, I should also mention that Colorado’s top state law enforcement official Attorney General John Suthers has also endorsed George Brauchler.