Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Bock, Gascón get LGBT lawyers group’s nod for DA

The LGBT group Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom is dually endorsing Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock and current San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón for the the DA’s office.

Bock announced the endorsements in a statement Wednesday, October 19.

“We need to do more than simply prosecute the hate crimes that occur – we need strong programs to prevent them,” she said. “As DA, I look forward to working with BALIF and LGBT attorneys to ensure we do exactly that.”

Gascon didn’t release a statement on the BALIF endorsement. But in response to a request for comment, Maggie Muir, his campaign spokeswoman, said he was “thrilled to have BALIF’s support, and to know they support the work he’s doing right now as district attorney, particularly his work in addressing hate crimes in the LGBT community.”

Susan Bluer, chair of the judiciary committee and a member of BALIF’s board, said in an interview, “Both of these candidates stuck out as being leaders in terms of embracing the kinds of issues we care about in terms of commitment to LGBT equality, such as who they would appoint to important positions.”

Bluer, an out lesbian, said Bock is a “lifelong prosecutor who is just very dynamic and impressive in terms of the work she’s done in Alameda County, as well as her supervisorial role within that department.” She also mentioned Bock’s work to eliminate sex trafficking.

Bock is the only candidate for DA who is currently a prosecutor. She has years of experience trying cases in Alameda County and works as assistant district attorney in charge of special operations and policy development for the DA’s office there. She supervises specialized trial units responsible for solving unsolved murders and rapes, political corruption, and other types of cases.

Bluer said her organization was “impressed” by Gascón’s “breadth of experience in criminal justice.” Gascón served as San Francisco’s police chief before former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed him to be DA in January. He was previously the police chief in Mesa, Arizona, as well.

Involvement with LGBTs

Bock stated she’d been “immensely moved” by the “tragic” murder of Gwen Araujo, the transgender teen who was beaten and strangled to death at a Newark house party in 2002 at the age of 17. Bock noted the Alameda County DA’s office prosecuted the case, although she wasn’t directly involved.

In her statement, Bock, a San Francisco resident, also discussed her plans for protecting LGBTs and people living with HIV and AIDS.

She said she’d work with law enforcement officials to increase protection in areas where transgender people are vulnerable, such as public transportation. She’d also increase sensitivity and training among juries, judges, and others, she said.

Bluer said Gascón has “broad-based support among LGBT attorneys … and seems very committed to the promotion of LGBT attorneys and the prosecution of cases that affect our community, as well.”

In the questionnaire responses he provided to BALIF, Gascón noted that as San Francisco’s police chief, he created an LGBT advisory board for the department to improve relations between the gay community and police.

As DA, he said, “I have made prosecuting hate crimes against LGBT individuals a top priority.” He added his office has a dedicated hate crimes prosecutor, Victor Hwang. Both Hwang and Gascón appeared at a recent hate crimes forum organized by the LGBT advisory panel.

BALIF bills itself as “the oldest and largest LGBT bar association in the country.” Candidates for endorsements in the November race went through extensive interviews with the group and completed questionnaires, among other steps. Then, BALIF’s judiciary committee made recommendations and sent 600 ballots to active members, Bluer said. The organization’s membership includes lawyers and law students.

Bluer said they needed 20 percent of the ballots to be returned, but they fell short of that. She wouldn’t say what the gap was. Since there was a lack of input from the general membership, the board made the endorsements. She declined to share the board’s vote tally.

Previous arrest

In response to a question about previous arrests, Gascón wrote that as a young man in San Diego, he’d been arrested for speeding. He didn’t provide details of the incident.

In her questionnaire, Bock said she’d never been arrested.

Candidates David Onek, a criminal justice expert and former San Francisco police commissioner, and longtime attorney Bill Fazio didn’t respond to the Bay Area Reporter’s emailed requests for copies of their questionnaires. Bluer said Vu Vuong Trinh, a former deputy public defender, was the only DA hopeful who didn’t participate in BALIF’s endorsement process.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 21, 2011 @ 12:01 pm PST
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