Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen became a trending topic over the weekend after WaPo reporter Radley Balko brought national attention to a dispute between the veteran lawman and a local defense attorney.
It all started with an impassioned column, penned by Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan and published in this news outlet, which argued that the anger directed at police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s murder should extend to the prosecutors that enable systemic abuses against Black people.
The original post on Khan’s personal blog included a map of a protest route around the local jail, courthouse and government center, where the DA’s West Wing office is located.
Rosen responded to the post by filing a whistleblower complaint against Khan for allegedly threatening the physical safety of his staff.
In his column last week, Balko remarked that the DA’s complaint “seems like an odd use of a whistleblower law,” which are “intended to facilitate reporting misconduct by powerful actors while shielding the lower-ranking whistleblowers from retaliation.”
Instead, Rosen—as one of the most powerful officials in the South Bay—used the law to “seek retaliation against a lower-ranking” county employee, to quote Balko.
Though public defenders the nation over voiced support for Khan, his own union, the county Government Attorneys’ Association, played it down the middle because—in another strange twist—it represents both public defenders and prosecutors.
Scott Hechinger, a defense lawyer from Brooklyn, called the whole situation “outrageous” on Twitter: “A Muslim public defender in Santa Clara calls for prosecutorial accountability. The DA treats it like a bomb threat … A deliberate overreaction to silence defender activism. It won’t work.”
On Tuesday, Rosen finally capitulated amid public pressure.
“I am withdrawing the county complaint that addressed workplace safety and security issues caused by a county employee’s social media posts,” he wrote in a statement to media. “The complaint has become a distraction from a vastly more important aim: that we confront racism. A recent letter to me from Maha Elgenaidi of the Islamic Networks Group put it eloquently: ‘Our joint interests should be to improve our criminal justice system and to continue to have a safe and peaceful regional community.’ I, too, hope that we as a diverse community can unite behind our common fight against inequality.”
The truce may have come too late for the South Bay’s prosecutor-in-chief to shake off an unfortunate new nickname bequeathed by Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, who deemed Rosen “our first DA Karen.”