Commentary, Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary: Commonwealth Attorney Candidate Katcher on Campaign

By Josh Katcher

I am a lifelong Democrat who believes in public safety. I am also a reform prosecutor who believes that we can create a fair and equitable local criminal justice system that  respects victims. However, that possibility is rapidly slipping away because the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney is in free fall. In the past 18 months, 14 attorneys have quit, and there are nine fully-funded attorney positions that remain unfilled. 

My campaign commitment is “Real Reform, Real Justice.” Real Reform views cases through a contextualized and humanized lens, rather than looking at incarceration as the only tool to wield.  It connects individuals who desperately need services and programs to treat underlying issues with an eye towards diversion. Think of matters involving kids doing kid things, the mentally ill, the homeless and the addicted.  It means not prosecuting simple marijuana cases and opposing the death penalty. However, Real Reform does not shy away from aggressive and unapologetic prosecutions for offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, major drug dealing, and serious gun charges. 

Real Justice means embracing, not just giving lip service to, the belief that justice for victims is bedrock in our judicial system. It means unequivocally upholding the constitutional rights of the accused. It means always remaining focused on just and equitable outcomes for the convicted. But the promise of 21st century reform prosecution requires more than just good intentions and slick talking points; it requires the relevant experience to lead and train a team of prosecutors in this complicated task. I have that experience. 

I have been a local prosecutor for the past 11 years. I have practiced in every court, been in front of every judge, and collaborated with all our local law enforcement agencies. I have tried hundreds of bench trials and over 50 jury trials. My opponent has not personally prosecuted a “single” case since taking office.

Last August, I made the difficult decision to quit a job I loved, because I had lost faith in the leadership and management of the office. Prior to doing so, I was the Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney supervising the largest team in the office. Specifically, my opponent entrusted me to train up our next generation of reform prosecutors. 

Over the past 11 years, I have served as president of the Arlington County Bar Association and as a member of the Virginia State Bar Council. I have often been invited to train prosecutors, defense attorneys, and police officers on the law across the state. I have been fighting for Democratic values my entire life. I have served as a local precinct captain twice, the head of voter registration, a member of our local Democratic Steering Committee, and a host of other roles.  

 As your Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will not retreat to the corner office when I’m elected. I will be in court on our most serious cases. I will handle cases from our juvenile justice docket. And I can and will pull my prosecutors off the line and handle their dockets myself when they need relief. 

My opponent promised that she would use her background to reimagine prosecution in a way that aligned with our collective values.  She stated that transparency would be a hallmark of her administration, yet she refuses to release any data.  We have no way of evaluating any of her supposed accomplishments. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I promise to release crime data within the first 12 months. My public-facing dashboard will inform the community how categories of cases are being handled.  Reality and the truth are more important than politics.  

This election is about choosing a leader that has the right experience to deliver on the promise of 21st century reform.  We have to move forward with reform in our community, not backwards. It takes informed experience to make the difficult judgment calls about which cases can be diverted entirely, which individuals need more services and support on their path away from the system, and which crimes need to be prosecuted. I am a Democrat who believes that there is a way to uphold public safety, respect victims, and improve our justice system. And I have the experience, temperament and judgment to do so.