Sunday, February 10, 2019

Kamala Harris "Smart on Crime" says John Burris

   John Burris made a name for himself in the San Francisco Bay Area litigating hard cases on behalf of working class Americans whose civil and constitutional rights have been violated by the police.  Wrongful death actions arising from excessive force by law enforcement personnel are the "bread and  butter" of his legal work.  Among his best known civil rights cases is the Rodney King case in which after being brutally beaten by police Mr. King was successful in a civil action for compensation for the violation of his constitutional rights. In what has come to be known as the "Riders Case" Mr. Burris  initiated a class action lawsuit on behalf of several individuals who had been victimized by a number of police officers from the Oakland Police Force who fabricated evidence against them, including planting drugs on them to implicate them in crimes.

   The "Riders Case" resulted in a landmark settlement which saw the court order injunctive relief which required the Oakland Police to be under a form of trusteeship and to implement a series of measures designed to cure the deleterious impact of the training deficiencies which came to light through that case.  It is this type of results-oriented, social change manner of lawyering which has made Mr. Burris an American hero in the eyes of many across America.

   When former California Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney
Ms. Kamala Harris decided to kick-off her bid to become President of the United States
on Martin Luther King Day in Oakland Mr. Burris was  among her biggest supporters.
Burris wasted no time in rallying his supporters and friends to support Kamala Harris'
bid for President.  This strong and open support amidst strong criticisms from the
main-stream press that somehow Ms. Kamala Harris was neither a progressive
Attorney General or District Attorney prompted this writer to explore the issue.

   Mr. Burris was very matter-of-fact in his explanation.  He made two points.  1.  Kamala Harris is "smart on crime".  Mr. Burris pointed out that in her capacity as San Francisco District Attorney Ms. Harris put a stop to the automatic filing of criminal charges for resisting arrest and or assault on police where there was no other underlying crime.  For those not familiar this practice has long been a pretext to violate the constitutional rights of many Americans who find themselves victimized as a result of police excessive force.  2.  Ms. Harris' opposition to the death penalty is a principled position which is consistent with what is clearly a change in how Americans and especially Californians view that issue.

About the author:  E.J. Guiste is a trial and appeal lawyer based in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada.