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The DA Say: Legislate My Salary!

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So it looks like one good thing happened this little-noticed election day. Comeuppance for Oregon prosecutor Joshua Marquis, the staunch death penalty defender who has argued over the years that innocent people basically never get convicted and that even DNA exonerations don't mean someone is actually innocent. Though the final tally is still unofficial, it seems that the residents of Clatsop County have defeated a ballot measure Mr. Marquis supported which would have changed the law in order to make him one of the highest paying DA's in the state.

That's right, a single-issue ballot initiative. The issue: His salary.

The hysterical history of the proposal tells you everything you need to know about Joshua Marquis and provides a pretty window into the particular mindset of a rabid prosecutor. Marquis, a small town DA with an big city ego ingratiated himself to media outlets around the country by seeming willing to defend almost any prosecutorial excess. This burgeoning national profile helped Marquis win re-election. But having national aspirations can also lead one to ignore the home fires, and after repeatedly failing to turn in required performance evaluations and being dogged by suggestions that he is "abusive to staff" his own county commissioners eventually voted to stop paying him the stipend they traditionally awarded him on top of his state salary.

Now most people when they have their pay cut feel stung and many with some spine might either resign or come in to their bosses and say "hey, clearly you're unhappy, so let's figure out how to make this better." But no. A guy who was trying to become president of the National Association of District Attorney's isn't gonna just get the message. (Marquis recently lost that presidential election, presumably because even a group of prosecutors doesn't want someone quite as rabid as he is leading them). So what did Marquis do? The end around.

Marquis supported an effort to gather thousands of signatures in order to make a law saying that he should get more money. Instead of making peace with his commissioners, or trying to understand why they might be unhappy with his antics, he arrogantly believed the voters would just authorize a pay raise. This, as much as anything else Marquis has written or said provides genuine insight into his view of what the law is and how it is to be used. The law, he seems to think, is an instrument of his own personal advancement, and it is to be used for precisely those purposes. It isn't hard to see why that's a dangerous attitude in a prosecutor.

Thank heavens, the citizens of Clatsop County thought different.


Josh Marquis