A Critical Look at the Role of the Prosecutor

My name is Clay Fuller.* I am a 3L at Santa Clara University School of Law and a native Californian. I hope one day to work as a criminal prosecutor in this state. I want to ensure that our state’s criminal justice system serves the necessary role of holding individuals accountable, while also not unnecessarily or arbitrarily punishing anyone within it. I believe it is important that anyone accused of a crime is treated constitutionally, ethically and fairly, and that our system of bail reflects that standard.

My primary area of focus is on the role of the prosecutor in the bail system. More specifically, whether or not judges hold prosecutors to their standard of proof set forth by the California Supreme Court in Van Atta v. Scott. In that case, the court held that the state must put forth evidence to show why an indigent defendant should be denied release on his or her own recognizance. I will explain the California Supreme Court’s decision and look to see how courts actually implement the ruling. Similarly, I will take a critical look at the prosecutor’s role in setting the money-bail amount. My initial understanding is that bail amounts are determined primarily by the county’s bail schedule as well as an individualized pre-trial report. The presumption in California is in favor of monetary bail. My concern is that this does not satisfy due process. Instead, California should adopt a statute similar to one recently passed in New Jersey that places the burden of proof entirely on the state in order to set a monetary bond or deny release on a defendant’s own recognizance. The role of the state is important when examining the structure of a bail system because under the current model, bail is either a deprivation of property, or a deprivation of liberty. If the state is going to deprive someone of either, it must provide compelling reasons for doing so.

*For professional reasons I have chosen to write this blog under a pseudonym. This name was randomly generated based on common names within the United States Census Bureau database. Any similarity to an actual person is purely coincidental.