District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election title=
District Attorney Joyce Dudley (Photo: Newsmakers)
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By Jerry Roberts of Newsmakers

Joyce Dudley will never forget the final words her late husband spoke to her three years ago.

"Unfortunately, with the very untimely death of my husband, I got to see firsthand that it ends, life ends," she said. "And I wanted to use his last two words to me as an inspiration.
And they were: 'Have fun.'"
In an exclusive Newsmakers TV interview, the three-term District Attorney of Santa Barbara County, cited those words of her beloved husband, John, as the simplest explanation of her surprise decision not to run for re-election this year.
She formally announced her intention at a Thursday morning news conference, during which she also endorsed Assistant District Attorney John Savrnoch to be her successor:

"I'm very proud to endorse John Savrnoch," she told us.

In our wide-ranging interview, Dudley discussed both the personal and professional reasons for not seeking a fourth term -- speaking candidly about some of the politics, policies and personalities in county government that underpin it. First elected in 2010 to lead the DA's office, which she joined in 1990, she ever since has displayed seemingly boundless energy, enterprise, intelligence and passion for the job.

"It hurts my heart, for a lot of reasons," she said about giving up the post. "I had to ask myself, after 32 years, if doing this job - in this environment - is still fun. And the answer to that was no."

Public safety and social justice. Dudley traced her unexpected move in part to frustration and vexation arising from last year's county budget hearings, when she clashed sharply, both with the Public Defender and with liberal members of the Board of Supervisors, over funding and critical issues of public safety and social justice.
Santa Barbara's conflicts over law enforcement policies reflect a broader, decade-long nationwide debate over criminal justice reform, which exploded with the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In the wake of widespread protests that followed, as Black Lives Matter leaders and some left-liberal allies called for "defunding the police," progressive prosecutors were elected in cities across the country, promising policies to address the "root causes" of crime rather than focusing on punishment and incarceration.
Now, however, spikes in murder rates and viral videos of brazen retail robberies have sent concerns about crime soaring to the top of public opinion polls -- reflected in a Los Angeles Times piece this week headlined, "Why crime is at the center of California elections this year" -- and a number of the progressive prosecutors -- including L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon and San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin -- face recall campaigns.
Strikingly, Dudley told us that the politics of this debate have shifted the priorities of some local government leaders and unbalanced the complex criminal justice system to the detriment of crime victims - a change she said influenced her decision to forego another term:
"When you ask the big question, 'is there justice in Santa Barbara," you have to say, 'do people feel safe," too. That is part of social justice...It's always been my goal to do that -- and suddenly it got murky.
"And when I tried to figure out how that shift happened, it occurred to me that some people in the Democratic Party are pandering to the outspoken minority of people who, I think, just haven't experienced the criminal justice system the way that I have.
"I understand the concept of 'unjustly accused,' I've experienced it, But I also understand all too well, the powerlessness that a crime victim feels, a crime victim who's done absolutely nothing, suddenly is subject to a criminal act.
"And suddenly our community has stopped saying, 'what about the present victim, what about future victims, and it's all about the suspect and the defendant. I'm looking for balance. And I think Santa Barbara did a really good job with that balance...until recently."
Evolution of a decision. Dudley repeatedly pointed to the Board of Supervisors' 2021 budget hearings as triggering her belief that it was time to leave the DA's office.
"I think the seed was planted about a year ago during the budget hearings. And some things happened there that made me think that when you put things in balance, if this were the last year of my life, is this how I'd want to spend my life?

"And I had to ask myself, after 32 years of doing this job, is doing this job in this environment still fun? And the answer to that was no,..So I think that was the first time that my husband's words came back to me. Are you having fun? Is this the goal?...Honestly, that was the first moment I considered not running."

Among other incidents during the hearings, she cited an effort by several liberal supervisors to make her commit to alternative "diversion" programs for a fixed percentage of cases brought to the DA's office - a proposal she termed "outrageous."
"When we talk about things like diversion, make sure that the diversion is going to make a difference, is going to have a positive effect on the public safety of the community and of justice," she said. "Don't just divert because that's the latest woke term. Carefully make that decision."
Check out our interview with Joyce Dudley via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here.

Key Quotes

On her preferred successor. (Just two weeks before the close of registration to qualify for the June 7 primary ballot, Dudley's endorsement of the 58-year old Savrnoch gives him a huge boost, and makes him a prohibitive front-runner -- with no challenger yet on the horizon).

"I'm very proud to endorse John Savrnoch. He's the assistant district attorney. He was the assistant district attorney in Fresno. He came to Santa Barbara as a deputy district attorney who worked in Lompoc. He proved himself as a trial lawyer. He proved himself as a leader. I made him a chief in Santa Barbara and then made him the assistant district attorney. I think he's the best person for the job."
On progressive prosecutors. "Why would a law enforcement officer arrest somebody if he knows his district attorney's office, isn't going to file charges. Why? You have to send a message from the top.
"The district attorney's office is the chief law enforcement official for any county, for Santa Barbara, I am. So from the top, I have to send a very clear message. These are the crimes that we're going to prosecute, not 'gee, you do your thing to arrest and we won't prosecute.' That's not the way the system works. I think it's a cowardly response to say, 'it's not the district attorney's responsibility.' I think it absolutely is."
On root causes. "I've often said when I was the director of Head Start, I did more to prevent crimes than I did as a district attorney. And I believe that. I believe some very basic things: We need good prenatal care for at-risk families. We need home visits for families that are at-risk. We need preschool programs for all. We need Head Start programs, where they get medical and dental. We need mental health and physical health screening.
"If we can...really focus on babies to five year olds, what a difference we could make. Because I'll tell you if a five year old walks into school and they don't have the same kind of educational background as others have had because they went to preschool, hat child walks into a foreign country. And that child feels alienated and that child feels hopeless. And that child starts to space out. And that child doesn't feel that they have a place in school.
"So what happens? That child is eventually is unsuccessful. That child eventually can become a truant. And 70% of the people in the state prison are people that didn't finish high school. So really, you really want to make a difference. Let's spend that money...let's fight crime and invest in kids."
On defunding the police. "When the suggestion is that we should defund the police, well, that's ridiculous. We want to give more funding for social service agencies. But when you defund the police, you make the communities less safe....

"...(W)e don't need to defund the police. We need to give resources for prevention, intervention, and prosecution. I think that (members of the Board of Supervisors) have another opportunity in the next budget hearing to show what their position is on that. In the past, I have felt let down, I'm hoping to not be let down this year."

On criticism of cops. "One of the things that's been heartbreaking for me, in addition to all the information we've gotten on critical race theory and everything else that's happening...to people of color, there is also what's happening to law enforcement. I'm not saying they're analogous. I understand the struggle of both.

"But...let's talk about law enforcement. Right now, law enforcement is being portrayed as the bad guys, they're being portrayed as racist. They're being portrayed as self-serving, as lying, as contemptuous. And as a result of that, the trust between law enforcement and our communities is going downhill.
"It's getting more and more difficult to hire high quality law enforcement officers, for them to want to stay in the business, for them to feel proud of the work, for the community to feel proud of them. We have to invest in law enforcement, in their education, in their mental health."
On co-response teams. "Love them, love co-response teams...That's a great place to put funding. Every law enforcement agency in Santa Barbara county should have multiple co-response teams...

"It makes so much sense. When a dispatch call comes in, you understand the person's had a history of mental illness and you understand how they have responded in the past. And you bring social workers and people who understand. If a law enforcement officer arrives, through no fault of their own, and somebody is in a chaotic mental state, they are going to be fearful, defensive and act aggressive.

"Sadly, those kinds of people often got arrested in the past when what they really needed was a safe place....they needed a hospital, they needed a safe place to go. But now with the co-response team, there are very few arrests in the situations like that. And people are getting the help they need, I love the co-response programs."

On her career path. "I began working at... the Children's Home Society Head Start programs... and I had always intended to stay as an advocate for children. That was my plan. My first volunteer job, I was 17 and I worked in the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. So I learned first-hand what happens to abused, neglected kids. The pilot light got lit and it's never gone out.

"As the director of Head Start..I watched a case of what I viewed as child abuse. I reported it and nothing happened. And the same person brought that child back to the next day. I was shocked and I was given a snotty response along the lines of "You don't like it, you become a lawyer..."
"I had no intention of being a lawyer. But I thought if I really want to make a difference in child abuse, apparently that's the way to do it...And it was always, always my passion to be a voice for the voiceless. It started with child abuse. Then it went to sexual assault, hate crimes, animal abuse. That was just, I feel, for lack of a better term, my calling."
On keeping the community safe. "Certainly I want to focus on those prevention programs. The next thing is I want us to look critically at intervention. When we talk about things like diversion, make sure that the diversion is going to make a difference, is going to have a positive effect on the public safety of the community and of justice. Don't just divert because that's the latest woke term. Carefully make that decision.
"Then when it comes to punishment, what's the best form of punishment? Some combination of treatment, incarceration, perhaps. Again, look at each individual case. And then focus on reentry. Most people don't spend the rest of their life in prison.

"What are we doing so when people who serve their time in prison are released in order to make sure that they get incorporated in the community and they don't commit more crimes? They're going to need jobs. They're going to need housing. They're going to need that kind of education support in order to be productive human beings in our communities.

"So if you don't look at criminal justice from prevention to reentry and you focus on any one area you're blind because we need it all."

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Show Comments
NotReallyDave Mar 03, 2022 07:00 PM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

I do know that she or her office never responded to my claims of corruption and wrongdoing by certain government officials. No response means no respect. There appears to be a "lavender shield" surrounding public officials when misdeeds have occurred.

a-1646496145 Mar 05, 2022 08:02 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

Nobody can say anything nice about Poor Joyce what about the book she wrote about the case before it was finished is that unethical ?never read it was it any good-Sounded pretty unethical compromise the case and they let her keep her job who’s running this clown show

Alexblue Mar 05, 2022 11:49 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

671, unfortunately I can't get in to it, let me say that I was not impacted by what she did, but I had the misfortune of being in a circle of people who had to watch it unfold.

She was awful and a couple of her henchmen were basically acting like paid thugs for a crime boss trying to (physically) intimidate people who were asking her questions she didn't like along the way.

mp805 Mar 03, 2022 03:25 PM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

WOW great interview Jerry! First time I've ever heard her speak...Really interesting to hear her comments on the progressive wing and prosecutors of the left, her comments on prop 47, defund the police and the issue of crime and safety... You can tell how exasperated she is with the system right now.

lovesbalot Mar 03, 2022 04:08 PM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

I like her emphasis on early childhood education.. head start etc. But something happens between head start and dropping out of high school. The big culprit is our approach to reading. It is settled science that the current approach to reading does not work for our most vulnerable students. If we change our culture around reading so ALL students can read many will not go from the education system to the justice system. Balanced literacy is increasingly coming under attack, however, as educators notice stubborn reading problems, mirrored in national reading scores. The 2019 National Assessment for Educational Progress showed that 4th and 8th grade students have made no progress in reading in the past decade, and between 2017 and 2019, reading performance actually declined. Barely one-third of those students are proficient readers. Dudley calls for educations support upon release, which is only part of it. We have to do what Chancelor David Banks in NY is doing... Getting rid of balanced literacy for a more explicit, evidenced based approach known as science of reading. Balanced literacy is hurting kids and causing reading performance to plummet nationwide.

RHS Mar 04, 2022 10:35 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

For decades the "reform" has been to "address early childhood" with the idea that this would eliminate social issues, crime, misconduct and such. These proposal almost always favor putting the money up front and skipping those who are too old to allegedly benefit. These lost souls will just go to jail and fail in life. The problem is such upfront plans just don't work for everyone or even most everyone. As much rewarding as it is to work with children we need resources to work with teenagers and adults who suffer from mental health, addiction, poverty, abuse and simply difficulty in functioning. This is, of course, the harder task so it is ignored. Sadly.

fitz Mar 04, 2022 06:25 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

Hope she enjoys retirement. I have heard that the guy she is endorsing is very good and is into restorative justice. I think Dudley lost her way. We had a very bad experience with her office several years ago. A long time resident, president of our beautification group, took down a garage sale sign from a utility pole. The sign poster called the sheriffs and they showed up at her house. They fined her several hundred dollars and made her go to Saturday school. When we called the DA's office to speak on her behalf, they were dismissive. We called Dudley's office to speak to her personally but Dudley never got back to us. After living here and working for our community for 40 years, this woman moved away. What a waste of time and money on the DAs part just to harass an elderly woman. Can't imagine how they handled real criminals.

a-1646412044 Mar 04, 2022 08:40 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

Candid and very interesting interview. I disagree with her on one important point- the County definitely needs some sort of citizen review board for the Sheriff's Department. They are much more aggressive with shooting suspects and much less accountable than SB Police. The County has paid out a large sum over the past decade for settling cases where the Sheriff's office over-reacted. Why not have more accountability to the tax-paying citizens?

SantaBarbaraObserver Mar 05, 2022 09:15 AM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

To many she was a strong DA but unfortunately that means over charging, over reaching and ignoring the hard cases that go unnoticed in order to bolster her conviction %.

Regardless of where you stand on her record, 12 years is too long for anyone to remain in any elected role. The DA has become a 90% political position. One that uses a heavy hammer of criminal prosecution and more importantly, attorney fees, as leverage to achieve her goals. There is no sweetness offered by her office. Its all stick, no carrot.

We are supposed to approach justice with a blind eye. However, we all know that politicians are never neutral and more importantly, they're never altruistic. Everything they do is for a self-serving purpose. Unfortunately for those wrapped up in the web of the justice system, that means a life wasted...

a-1646511693 Mar 05, 2022 12:21 PM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

Unlike too many posters here I much prefer someone who is truly on the side of the law abiding people and victims of crime rather than on the side of the criminals. Thank you Ms Dudley for being that person.

wrecktor Mar 14, 2022 08:36 PM
District Attorney Dudley Announces She Won't Seek Re-election

As a Santa Barbara newcomer it's been depressing to see how severely the Baby Boomers' mindset dominates public discourse, politics, and more importantly the myopic vision and delimited aspirations of essential public sector agencies. Ms. Dudley seems an admirable example of a DA; and at once, sadly, just another Boomer telling us what we just can't do. Buh-bye! #okBoomer

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