Judge Danielle Douglas’s career trajectory is as implausible as it is inspirational.
Last Wednesday, an intimate gathering of Richmond stakeholders, community members and For Richmond Steering Committee members had the unique opportunity to learn more about Judge Douglas’ meteoric rise from teen mother to Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge during a luncheon hosted by For Richmond.
Judge Douglas, who is a candidate for the appointment to interim district attorney in Contra Costa County, was welcomed to the gathering by For Richmond Executive Director Kyra Worthy, who presented the luncheon as an opportune chance “to have an open dialogue about the needs of the Richmond community.”
What became evident during the 1.5 hour dialogue that ensued is that Judge Douglas’ background—as a one-time teen mother who has witnessed domestic violence, has been on public assistance and who has prevailed as a now single parent to three children—makes her singularly well-suited for the role of interim DA.
Simply stated, she can deeply empathize with the public in the courtroom in a way that other candidates cannot.
“When I first started as an attorney I used to try and hide the hardships and struggles I have experienced,” stated Judge Douglas in her bio. “I rarely talked about witnessing domestic violence as a child, being on public assistance or being a single mother.”
“I don’t shy away from talking about these things anymore,” she added. “For I now realize that they are what have made me effective and wise. They permitted me to be a better prosecutor and judge, because I could understand the challenges faced by defendants, witnesses and victims. My experiences and hardships have made me sensitive to the challenges (and sometimes inequities) of our justice system, and a deep commitment to making our system fair to everyone.”
Judge Douglas’ triumphant overcoming of the life obstacles that could have hindered her career success bears testimony to her resilience, determination and stick-to-itiveness that would help make her a superb interim DA.
During the luncheon, Judge Douglas shared her personal background, and how, following law school, she rose to work for fourteen years as a prosecutor in Contra Costa County and San Francisco, and eventually was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Superior Court as a judge in Contra Costa County.
Over the past three years, she has worked at the Richmond Courthouse, primarily presiding over criminal matters. “It has been the best experience,” Judge Douglas said of her work there. “For me, it’s not always about the punishment, it’s about what can I do to make your life better so that you’re not in front of me again.”
“For me, it was different [from her colleagues],” she later added. “I didn’t just look at, ‘Did the person violate the law?’ I looked at, ‘What was the person’s situation?’ said Judge Douglas of her work as a prosecutor and judge.
Also at the gathering, Judge Douglas fielded a variety of questions from the group and outlined some of her top priorities if elected. This included bail reform (she’s a proponent) and addressing racial disparity, particularly amongst juveniles.
Another key priority for Judge Douglas if she becomes the interim DA will be to appoint a director of community outreach to strengthen ties to community organizations that can connect residents to the resources they need to improve their lives—and stay out of the courtroom.
“The DA’s office has to do a better job of partnering with community organizations,” said Judge Douglas during the luncheon.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will interview the finalists for the role of interim DA at its Sept. 12, 2017, meeting. A final decision will be made at that time, or at its Sept. 19, 2017, meeting. Meetings will be held on the aforementioned Tuesdays at 9 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 651 Pine Street in Martinez.
Richmond residents can email John Gioia, Supervisor, District One, Contra Costa County, at John_Gioia@bos.cccounty.us or contact his office at 510-231-8686 should they want to indicate their support of Judge Douglas.
-Kathy Chouteau, email@example.com