HUMBOLDT – Kathleen Bryson is quickly becoming known as a unique personality in the district attorney’s election. At first brush, she’ll lean toward subjects more esoteric than politics but she also has plenty to say about how the District Attorney’s Office is being run – and how she can run it better.
And, like all the announced and rumored challengers so far, she has insider’s experience, having worked under incumbent District Attorney Paul Gallegos as a deputy DA from October, 2005 to March, 2007.
Now in criminal defense private practice and continuing to take on DUI, possession and cultivation cases after doing similar work for the Law Offices of Manny Daskal, Bryson is aiming for management of the county’s prosecutors. She says she’s doing it out of a sense of responsibility.
“It gets to the point where you have to run, when you see a lot of things being done improperly, things you know you can do better,” said Bryson.
She emphasized her mix of law and business experience – she worked in London as a legal advisor for Tesco Stores, a major global retailer, from 1998 to 2003 – and wants to apply it to the DA’s Office.
“We need to treat it like a business and properly manage, train and motivate people,” she said. Bryson liked that Gallegos “didn’t manage me too much” but said a slack approach doesn’t work as well with younger, less experienced attorneys.
Bryson has more advice for Gallegos: “When you hold a meeting, you don’t have it be just a bull session.” She added that if Gallegos takes her advice, it could offset her campaign but will help the office.
“So here we are, Paul: you need another legal secretary,” she said. “You have two for about 15 lawyers, they get sick a lot and if they’re not sick, they wish they were – those girls are overworked. I said it while I was in there, I’m going to say it now.”
Continuing to address Gallegos directly, Bryson added, “I also told you when I was in there – turn off the lights after hours -- unless you have stock in PG&E, turn them off.”
Bryson also commented on something that has been widely talked about since Gallegos overturned former DA Terry Farmer’s longtime authority in 2003 – the loss of many veteran deputy DAs. She acknowledged that “there are deputy district attorneys who don’t want me to win,” but added, “once I win, they’re going to be gratified to see that I will remain professional and they will keep their jobs.”
One of the longtime attorneys who lost their deputy DA work is Allison Jackson, a respected prosecutor of crimes against children and women who was fired after an unsuccessful attempt to recall Gallegos in 2004. There’s been speculation about the reason for it – and Jackson’s emergence as a DA candidate – ever since.
“Paul fired her because Paul wanted to, I don’t know if he had any other criteria than that,” said Bryson. “Of course, I’m not necessarily in the know as to why Paul fired Allison right in the middle of a prelim (preliminary hearing), but I’m sure Paul will be able to tell you that if you interview him.”
Divulged or not, the circumstances of Jackson’s firing will be talked about more during the election. When Bryson was asked about her own exit from the Office, she said Manny Daskal’s firm had a high caseload and paid better.
Asked about the issues that will matter most in the election, Bryson talked about the symbolism of her campaign colors – pink represents “survivors” of serious crimes, she said, relating it to the handling of the case against Jason Whitmill and Anthony Flores, the men who caused the death of nine-year-old Nicole Quigley while drag racing on State Route 299 and agreed to plea deals.
Bryson has been criticized by Quigley’s father and she clarified that use of the color pink represents respect for “survivors not being treated the way they should be in a case like that – that case hit me pretty hard… my daughter is the exact same age, almost, as Nicole Quigley.”
Observing the court proceedings in the case, Bryson said she was surprised that Gallegos took on the case and then handed the prosecution off to Deputy DA Maggie Flemming. “Why on earth would Paul take a case like that?” she asked, saying that the DA should only take felony cases if “he thinks he can do it better than the other lawyers in his office – no, you can’t, Paul.”
Another reason is “taking a case to get your name in the paper – well, you’ll never see me do that, ever,” she said.
Bryson also said that a DA becomes inaccessible when felony cases and jury trials are taken on.
The color blue in her campaign signs and buttons will be for law enforcement, she continued. She believes police agencies have “about had it with Paul,” although she added that he’s paid some attention to the issue since she was first quoted on it by the Times-Standard newspaper.
Asked about use of plea bargains, which is sure to be a major election issue, Bryson said they’re a “mandatory” aspect of the judicial system but on the misdemeanor level “where we can easily afford to have a plea bargain or two,” Gallegos is taking cases to trial to train his inexperienced prosecutors.
“Which is great if it weren’t so unethical and an abuse of power – we are clogging the courtrooms with penny ante misdemeanor cases,” she said.
Bryson’s prosecution priorities will be violent crimes and sex crimes. Regarding drug offences, “If I could use one four-letter word, it wouldn’t be Paul, it would be meth,” she said. “Right now he’s doing his best but it’s just not good enough.”
Marijuana is a more difficult subject to assess as laws on it continue to change but Bryson called for “no more lawyers, guns and money” promoted by a black market. She favors legalization/regulation and better communication between defense attorneys and prosecutors on medical needs.
If police search medical grows that are apparently overblown, they should leave behind an amount of cannabis that fits the concept of patient needs, Bryson added.
Unlike the other announced and rumored challengers, Bryson’s name is a new one to many people. But she said that other than spending a few years in London, her family has been in Humboldt since 1993 and loves it here. “It seems like I’m this person from out of nowhere, but I’m not,” she said.