2 top deputies better than 1 for Philly DA Larry Krasner

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner now has two first assistants.

Krasner announced Wednesday that Robert Listenbee Jr., formerly an administrator with the Department of Justice and high-ranking public defender in Philadelphia, would join his leadership team at the rank of first assistant, a key post in any prosecutor’s office — and one that Krasner technically already had filled.

Last month he appointed former Common Pleas Court Judge Carolyn Engel Temin to the role, praising her independence and experience while saying he would have considered creating a leadership team without a first assistant if the position had not been required by law.

At a news conference Wednesday, Krasner said that he was excited to add more accomplished lawyers to his leadership team and that his office — with himself, Temin, and Listenbee at the top — now has “three locomotives.”

“The train goes faster, and the train can carry more,” he said.

Listenbee was a longtime public defender who was chief of the juvenile unit for the Defender Association of Philadelphia from 1997 to 2013. He then spent nearly four years running the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the Obama administration before stepping down in 2017 and taking a role at Drexel University.

In addition to his litigation skills, Listenbee has administrative chops. At the Justice Department he managed a staff of about 70 people and an annual budget of more than $250 million. The District Attorney’s Office has about 600 employees, half of them prosecutors, and a budget of about $37 million.

Krasner said there would be plenty to keep both Temin and Listenbee busy, and the reform-minded prosecutor has been quickly rolling out new policies related to cash bail, immigration-related cases, and marijuana prosecution.

While Listenbee will play an obvious role in juvenile justice matters, he says he envisions his role touching a variety of policies and departments.

“I see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.