Philadelphians voted by a ratio of 3-1 in November for disruption in the District Attorney’s Office with the election of Larry Krasner.
And now they’re getting it.
Krasner last Friday — on a snow day when the office was closed — gave 31 experienced prosecutors the boot, including several from the Homicide Unit. That’s about 10 percent of the prosecutors he now oversees.
So far, they’re not getting that.
Krasner, a Democrat who was a defense attorney for three decades, pitched his lack of prosecutorial experience as an asset. Voters bought it, rejecting the Republican nominee, Beth Grossman, who had served in every division in the District Attorney’s Office.
And now, the first days of Krasner’s administration seem more about imprudence than jurisprudence.
Victims of crimes, witnesses and people accused, along with judges and defense attorneys, were left in a lurch in city courtrooms when prosecutors expected to play their part in our criminal justice system were suddenly yanked from those roles, with no replacements ready.
And Krasner? He waited four days to explain his actions. When he finally found his voice, our new district attorney favored semantics over transparency.
Nobody had been fired, Krasner explained. They had been asked to resign.
Krasner defended the move, saying the prosecutors he ousted didn’t fit the mission of the office.
“The coach gets to pick the team,” Krasner said. He’s right.
Krasner’s problems arise not from the action, but from the lack of preparation for the reaction. He must have known the disruption would affect pending cases. That’s problematic, especially for one who promised to seek justice for victims;
As a candidate, Krasner claimed in October that “there is no magic list” of people he would fire, as rumors swirled through the District Attorney’s Office of a potential purge.
Now we know there is a list. And it’s not just magic; it’s invisible.
Krasner’s own campaign website includes an interview he gave to the Declaration website, in which he pledged to bring more transparency to the office.
“It is vital that we change the current culture within the District Attorney’s Office,” Krasner said in that story, just before the May Democratic primary election. “This naturally includes a shift in attitude within the office’s Right-to-Know unit.”
We filed a public records request with that unit on Tuesday, asking for the names of the 31 prosecutors who were shown the door on Friday.
The District Attorney’s Office quickly replied by letter, saying it “will require a 30-day extension of time” to consider that request.
Erik Arneson, executive director of the state’s Office of Open Records, sees no gray area here.
“The law is crystal clear: The names of discharged employees are public record,” Arneson said.
This was Krasner’s first run for office, so he is as new to politics as he is to prosecution. But promises are promises.
He pledged disruption, competence and transparency. One out of three is a disappointing start for a politician who presented himself as an agent for “criminal justice reform.”