Op-Ed: Ash Kalra Should Be California’s Next AG

As public defenders who represent people and serve families most impacted by our criminal legal system, we call upon Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) as California’s next Attorney General.

Mr. Kalra is a dedicated public servant and reformer who possesses the diverse experience and unique talent to unify people and lead our state into the next frontier of criminal justice. Appointing him as Attorney General will help ensure healing from decades of systemic racism, public safety for all, the end of mass incarceration, and a re-imagination of policing in our communities.

Mr. Kalra served 11 years as a Santa Clara County deputy public defender representing the indigent. He battled in courtrooms where the death penalty, the prosecution of kids as adults, and life without the possibility of parole sentences were commonplace. He witnessed the inequities of cash bail and misguided Three Strikes and drug laws that fueled our mass incarceration epidemic. He saw firsthand how communities of color are disparately targeted and treated inhumanely by law enforcement.

Most importantly, Mr. Kalra sat in jail interview rooms with the people, most often Black and brown, that he represented. He talked to their families.  He heard their stories of trauma, poverty and police brutality. He learned about their context, not just their criminal conduct. These human contacts cultivated Mr. Kalra’s unique insight into how the criminal legal system harms our communities but also fostered expertise on how to repair our institutions to ensure equity, justice, and safety for all.

Mr. Kalra served eight years on the San Jose City Council, the 10th largest metropolis in the United States and the hub of Silicon Valley. He helped manage a multimillion-dollar budget, worked with a diverse constituency, and invested himself in remedying community struggles like homelessness.

As a city councilperson, Mr. Kalra was a voice for police accountability. He pushed for a body camera policy, for data collection on curb sitting, and for stronger investigatory powers for the Independent Police Auditor.  Throughout his time as a city councilor, Mr. Kalra developed acumen in how systems like education, public welfare, behavioral health, and criminal justice intertwine and impact the safety and well-being of our communities.

Mr. Kalra then took his spirit of service to Sacramento as an Assemblyman in 2016, the first Indian American to ever serve in the California State Legislature.  In just a few years at the Capitol, Mr. Kalra, through his special ability to rally people and cultivate widespread support, has helped enact a wave of groundbreaking reforms to make our system more humane, strip away constructs of mass incarceration, and combat police violence and the manifestations of systemic racism.

Mr. Kalra voted to end the practice of prosecuting 14- and 15-year-old kids as adults. He voted to amend the outdated and over-broad felony murder rule that resulted in people serving unfair sentences. He has pushed legislation to curtail enhancements that perpetuate excessive prison terms and over incarceration. He authored and helped pass necessary legislation to make juries more diverse and reflective of the community. He spearheaded legislation to ban police choke holds.

Most recently, Mr. Kalra authored and led the charge to enact The California Racial Justice Act, cutting-edge legislation that will push our state to overcome insidious racial disparities in the criminal legal system from policing to charging to trials to sentencing.

Mr. Kalra, a son of South Asian immigrants and an immigrant himself who grew up in San Jose, will also value and protect California’s 11 million immigrant people. He will honor the lives of California’s children, half of whom have at least one immigrant parent.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Californians took to the streets to interrupt the status quo, demand that Black Lives Matter, stop mass incarceration, and end police brutality. And for these changes to manifest, California needs an Attorney General that can unify, build coalitions, and persuade others not yet in the fold to appreciate the need for reform. The person most uniquely qualified and ready to answer these imminent demands is Ash Kalra.


Molly O’Neal, Santa Clara County Public Defender, San Jose, CA

Manohar Raju, San Francisco Public Defender, San Francisco, CA

Oscar Bobrow, Solano County Chief Deputy Public Defender, Vallejo, CA

Tracie Olson, Yolo County Public Defender, Woodside, CA

David Epps, Santa Clara County Alternate Defender, San Jose, CA

Michael Ogul, Past President, California Public Defenders Association, Fair Oaks, CA

Sajid A. Khan, Deputy Alternate Public Defender, San Jose, CA


  1. Gov. Gavin Newsom,
    Please appoint Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) as California’s next Attorney General.

  2. Ash Kalra is one of the most far leftist progressives. As crazy and extreme as Trump but on the extreme left! The maker of Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club, Silicone Valley De Bug, and other far left progressives group where the Chair, CEOs, and founders are all way too far leftists. No way Jose!

  3. Didn’t this privileg-o-crat get a DUI in his 40s?


    Isn’t DUI like Schrodinger’s Negligent Homicide, you don’t know if you killed someone until after you get home?

    Didn’t we just put someone’s head on a political spike for this, a woman no less.

    What kind of privileged patriarchy is this, a UC Santa Barbara / Georgetown flavor of it no less?

    Where is Mother Dauber when things really matter?

    Gavin Newsom should demand his resignation immediately if you ask all the mothers of babies killed by DUI in my opinion!

  4. This could be refreshing, only relatively, but still refreshing, if the advocates conceive of this lefty Dem turning the A.G. office into a public defender’s office. It continues the sickness, on the other hand, if what’s sought is another “progressive prosecutor” for the A.G. position’s political corruption. (Adults say hell, no to that.)

  5. There are feminazis and the there is Mother Dauber and her Dionysian Sisterhood of the Burning of Men.

    I am very unimpressed with their lack of mobilization against this duplicitous hustler who thinks it’s okay to put kids life at risk so he can pound liquor than drive his BMWer home.

  6. Any objection with the burning? of these types of men? One thing for sure about Ash Kalra, he creates different far left progressives political groups to buffer his supposedly “grandiose” credentials! He is just a typical corrupted politician who ask people to to as he says not as he does! Top credentials and talent, our chulis #KamalaHarris #ForThePeople

  7. Sociopath libertarian property owners and crazed evangelist Kamala Harris sycophants on the same anti-Kalra page? Could there be a better or stronger endorsement of Ash Kalra for Attorney General?

    Let’s turn the page. !Arriba Ash!

  8. Thank you for this well-written article. As one of his many grateful constituents, I can confidently say that Ash Kalra is the best choice for California Attorney General, and I urge Governor Newsom to appoint him as soon as Becerra is confirmed by the Senate.

  9. California Finds a New Way to Be Soft on Crime
    What would happen if lawmakers reinvented the criminal-justice system to target “systemic racism” instead of crime? California is about to find out. Thanks to a 2020 law called the California Racial Justice Act, every felon serving time in the state’s prisons and jails can now retroactively challenge his conviction and sentencing on the ground of systemic bias.

    To prevail, the incarcerated prisoner need not show that the police officers, prosecutors, judge or jurors in his case were motivated by racism or that his proceedings were unfair. If he can demonstrate that in the past, criminal suspects of his race were arrested, prosecuted or sentenced more often or more severely than members of other racial groups, he will be entitled to a new trial or sentence.

    The Racial Justice Act repudiates a key U.S. Supreme Court precedent governing allegations of criminal-justice bias. McCleskey v. Kemp (1987) held that to defeat prosecution or sentencing under federal equal-protection grounds, a defendant must show that decision makers acted with discriminatory purpose; statistical disparities aren’t enough. The Racial Justice Act establishes a new state cause of action that simply presumes that the justice system is biased, obviating the need to show individual discriminatory intent.

    California’s criminal-defense bar is lining up an onslaught of litigation. The 2020 law initially applied only to new prosecutions, and even before the onset of retroactivity at the start of 2024, defense lawyers were demanding that district attorneys provide decades’ worth of records, no matter how tangential to their case, to create statistical claims of bias.

    That discovery burden is onerous, but it’s the least of the act’s problems. The statute abandons the rule of comparing like to like. If a defense expert seeks to show that defendants from one racial group were sentenced more harshly in the past than defendants of other races, he can ignore criminal history in composing the comparison groups. He can ignore the heinousness of the crimes committed by the two groups. As long as they were charged under a similar statute, they will be deemed sufficiently comparable to build a case for prosecutorial racism.

    The Racial Justice Act’s drafters and supporters justify the exclusion of criminal history from statistical analysis via circular reasoning: They claim criminal history is infected by the same bias that infects everything else in the criminal-justice system. The act establishes an infinite regress of bias. If a prosecutor tries to offer what the law calls “race neutral reasons” for either past prosecutions or the one under challenge, those reasons can themselves be discounted as the product of “systemic and institutional racial bias, racial profiling, and historical patterns of racially biased policing and prosecution.” There is no clear way out of the presumption of racial guilt.

    Court testimony now sounds like a critical race studies course. When a felon in San Francisco contested his arrest and prosecution for having a loaded handgun in his car, a “race expert” testified that the arresting officer’s use of the phrase “ high crime area” demonstrated “ bias against people of color.” The trial judge disagreed, but an appeals court reversed and allowed the felon’s claim to proceed. (Speaking of bias, that same expert, Dante King, asserted at the University of California, San Francisco, on Feb. 8 that “whites are psychopaths” whose “behavior represents an underlying, biologically transmitted proclivity.”) On Feb. 14, a state appellate court in San Diego held that a police officer can be guilty of implicit bias against black drivers even if he doesn’t know the race of the driver he stops. Not surprisingly, defense attorneys are now tacking on Racial Justice Act claims to almost any case involving minority defendants.

    The defense bar, academia and activist groups know how powerful a tool the California Legislature has handed them. Advocates are tutoring prisoners to file new claims under the law. A lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California recently told a conference at Berkeley Law School: “We have the potential for something grand: to unravel an unjust system. We are celebrating the dawn of a new era.” The act’s author, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, predicted that other states would follow California’s lead and that variants would be enacted in such domains as healthcare and family court. “The possibilities are endless, because racism is so pervasive,” Mr. Kalra told the conference.

    A case from Contra Costa County last year shows the snowballing potential of the Racial Justice Act. A judge found that four black gang members who had committed murder as part of a bloody feud between two Oakland gangs had been improperly sentenced to life in prison without parole. That conclusion wasn’t based on flaws in the four defendants’ trials, but simply on an alleged historical pattern of sentencing bias toward black gang murderers. The black comparison group in the case was made up of 30 black defendants who had also committed gang murder in Contra Costa County from 2015 to 2022 and who had also received life without parole. All 30 can now sue to erase those sentences. By mandating disparate treatment based on race, the Racial Justice Act will produce unequal justice for victims as well as offenders. Racial disparities in prosecuting and sentencing reflect disparities in criminal offending. In Los Angeles, blacks are 21 times as likely as whites to commit a violent crime, 36 times as likely to commit a robbery, and 57 times as likely to commit a homicide, according to police department data. Those data come from reports filed by victims and witnesses, who are themselves disproportionately black. Blacks in Los Angeles are 17 times as likely to be homicide victims as whites; state-wide, the disparity is 13 times.

    Many of the largest California counties have leftist district attorneys who cheer the new law. Some are setting up Racial Justice Act units; it is unclear which side those units are on. Alameda County’s Pamela Price has already banned almost all sentencing enhancements on grounds of disparate racial impact. Oakland, the county’s principal city, had a 21% increase in violent crime last year, a 45% increase in car theft, and a 23% increase in carjackings and burglaries. The incidence of some crimes has tripled since 2019. As California courts apply the Racial Justice Act, the rest of the state will look more and more like Oakland.

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