Carson vs Fladager, by Bruce Frohman

Birgit Fladager
Birgit Fladager

Next year, an election will be held to either affirm the job District Attorney Birgit Fladager is doing for the citizens of Stanislaus County or to replace her with criminal defense attorney Frank Carson, who has already announced that he is running for the job. One way to evaluate the upcoming contest is to view it from the perspective of those who have been inside the office.

DA Birgit Fladager is seen by some as projecting a soft spoken image with an iron core inside.  She is strong willed and brilliant as an attorney, with outstanding legal knowledge and instincts.

The only criticism of DA Fladager is a weakness held by most attorneys: administrative organization.  She has a great group of dedicated employees. However, there is some disagreement within the ranks about the system of rewards and recognition.

Some employees are seen as rewarded beyond accomplishment, while other deserving employees feel overlooked. This is a management issue described by employee groups of many agencies, so this criticism may be viewed with some degree of skepticism. There is not an inordinate amount of grumbling or infighting.  In the main, the staff works well together.

Ms. Fladager made positive points with her staff when she invited skeptical Stanislaus County Supervisors into her office to look closely at the work her employees perform. Criticism of the office by outsiders melted away after her initiative and staff has not forgotten her efforts in behalf of the department.

Boycott of a Judge

DA Fladager recently instructed her attorneys to routinely request a different judge when a certain judge is assigned to any criminal case. Despite public criticism about the order appearing in the press, some employees of the DA’s office agree that the order is a wise one.

The subject judge is said to be a political appointee of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The judge had been the personal attorney of the former governor, specializing in civil law.  Because of his inexperience in criminal law, some of the judge’s orders issued in the Stanislaus County DA’s cases had to be appealed to a higher court in order to obtain a different ruling.  Invariably, the DA’s office would get the lower court ruling overturned on appeal. Therefore, by avoiding the judge, the DA’s office expects to save taxpayers money by reducing court costs and staff time. Fewer appeals would be needed simply by using other more experienced judges.

Frank Carson for District Attorney

When criminal defense attorney Frank Carson announced that he was running for District Attorney, Birgit Fladager held a staff meeting and gave instructions. She told the staff that political opposition would not affect the operation of the DA’s office. She said that she did not want any political activity within the office and that staff would comport themselves with the highest level of integrity.

Reportedly, about two days after the staff meeting, the law office of Frank Carson was burglarized. The sense of some staff members within the DA’s office is that the office was burglarized by someone with no ties to the DA’s office, someone who wanted to make it look like the DA’s office was involved in the burglary. The DA’s office has a number of unnamed political enemies, such as those who may have been prosecuted in the past.

Frank Carson’s Image Among District Attorney Office Employees

Over the years, Criminal Defense Attorney Frank Carson has developed a reputation within the DA’s office as a scrappy defense attorney. He fights vociferously with every means available to defend his clients. He has had personality difficulties with one or more employees in the DA’s office and presently has a lawsuit pending against one employee.

Some employees of the DA’s office suspect that if elected, Mr. Carson will be holding grudges that he may act on.  Depending on his inclination, he would be put into a position where he could damage the department because of the personal differences. This may be unfortunate should highly talented career employees decide to seek work elsewhere.

On the other hand, Mr. Carson is a brilliant and talented individual. He could make a positive difference. A big unknown would be administrative skills, which cannot easily be assessed based only on his courtroom work.  Upon assuming the job, he would need to display skill sets in the tasks of preparing and presenting budgets as well as managing people.

The Prosecution of Mayor Carmen Sabatino

When Birgit Fladager assumed office, she inherited the felony indictments of former Mayor Carmen Sabatino. The case had already been put together by her predecessor Jim Brazelton, at considerable cost and effort by the department staff.

Faced with a decision to proceed or discontinue the case, Ms. Fladager opted to proceed.  Rather than get involved in a political controversy and with no apparent animosity towards Mr. Sabatino, she decided to let the justice system run its course.  When the jury in the case could not reach a unanimous decision, Ms. Fladager decided not to devote any more resources to the case and did not choose to retry it.  Frank Carson was the attorney for Carmen Sabatino.


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