5th Judicial District Attorney: Passing the torch
Ryan Summerlin December 2, 2012
Future 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown ran his campaign for the office on the promise to take the prosecutor’s office in a new direction. But post-election, that change is still taking shape, according to Brown.
“What I’m trying to craft is an approach that will use the best parts of the existing office and keep those present in the office,’ he said. “And in areas where there’s a need for improvement, identifying those areas to achieve the best possible office for protecting public safety.”
Among the policies he says he’s looking to improve is the office’s approach to “non-serious offenses.” He’ll look for alternative mediation options outside the courtroom, which should save the DA’s office money, he said.
Brown will also have to grapple with some personnel issues when he takes office in January. At least three attorneys have already announced plans to leave when current DA Mark Hurlbert steps down next year.
“I’m reaching out to the local legal community to make them aware that these openings within the office are imminent,” Brown said. “(I’m) encouraging attorneys who are qualified to contact me in order to begin the process to see if they would be a fit for a prosecutor’s office.”
Hurlbert, who served a 10-year term as DA for the 5th Judicial, took a job as the No. 2 prosecutor in Arapahoe County. He reached his two-term limit this year, and is departing Summit County after 18 years with the DA’s office.
“Certainly, it is tough,” Hurlbert said of the move. “But ultimately, my motivation has always been protecting the people of this district. … On Jan. 8 it will be (Brown’s) responsibility as to whether it’s going to succeed or fail, but up until that time I want to give him every opportunity I can for the people of the district.”
He’ll leave Brown with one first-degree murder case out of Clear Creek County in progress, several other high-profile cases pending and the water murky on the more than two dozen open marijuana possession cases in the district, now complicated by Amendment 64 – a voter-approved measure legalizing limited quantities of marijuana for adults over the age of 21.
Brown would not say whether he plans to dismiss pending cannabis possession cases, as marijuana advocates are demanding and some district attorneys have already done.
“We’re in the stages of planning for how the new law will be implemented,” Brown said. “I can’t tell you what the answer is to how the new law will be implemented in the district, other than to suggest we need to have an approach. There are areas of the law which are vague so we all need to get on the same page.”
Brown declined to comment on pending felony cases, noting that he is not, yet, the acting district attorney.
He also avoided taking a stance on the current Summit County Drug Court, a pet project of Hurlbert’s, which provides a comprehensive rehabilitation program to attempt to integrate habitual drug and alcohol offenders into society and reduce their rate of recidivism.
Brown said he intends to “actively review the benefits” of the program.
But Hurlbert said the 2-year-old drug court, which recognized its first graduate earlier this year, is now strong enough to stand even without Brown’s backing.
“The drug court will survive no matter what happens,” Hurlbert said. “Part of getting anything started is to make sure it’s expandable, and I think I’ve done that.”
Brown will become the district attorney representing Eagle, Lake, Summit and Clear Creek counties on Jan. 8.