- Candidate Name: Daron Morris
- Position Sought: King County Prosecutor (Non-incumbent)
- Home Legislative District: 36
- Democrat: Yes
- Manager or Point of Contact: Riall Johnson
- Phone: +12062022977
- Address: PO Box 22169
- Website: www.electdaronmorris.org
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daronmorris2018/
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/daronmorris2018
Part I – Candidate Background
1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience.
Over the last twenty years, I have served my community as a public defender. This experience has ideally prepared me to be King County Prosecutor. As a lawyer, I do my best work when I empathize with people and the challenges they have experienced. I’ve served my community on individual at a time, face to face, to enforce their constitutional rights and demand justice. I was a front line attorney, mostly for felony cases, from 1998-2007. When my first child was born, I left for three years in private practice, but still did mostly public defense cases, local and federal. In 2010, I returned to the public defender’s office to supervise the felony practice. I also became one fo two deputy directors in 2012. I remained in those positions until 2015, when I was promoted to Assistant Training Director. In 2016, I became my office’s Investigation Supervisor. I recently resigned from that position on May 15th to run for this office. Teamsters 117 was my local and I took a lead role in negotiating our last collective bargaining agreement. I also volunteer at Crisis Clinic on the suicide and crisis hotline. I’ve devoted a lot of my personal time to legislative advocacy on criminal justice issues through the Washington Defender Association and the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. I’ve also been very substantially involved in justice reform work on several issues: mental health, immigrant rights, gun safety and jury diversity.
I’m a first-time candidate. I’ve never been involved in other campaigns. I am a lifelong democrat. I vote and I have caucused.
2. What law firms or public law offices (i.e. King County Prosecutor’s Office) have you worked for? Have you served as a prosecutor or a public defender? Please include dates, and title for each position that you have held, as well as areas of law practiced.
The Legal Aid Society New York (1998-2000), The Defender Association / King County Department of Public Defense (2001-2007; 2010-2015; 2016-2018); Sole practitioner (2007-2009); Morris and Hart, PLLC (2009-2010).
3. Have you ever served as a mediator or arbitrator? (If so, please describe your experiences.) If you are an incumbent, do you perform settlement conferences?
4. Have you been a judge pro-tem? If so, what was that experience like? What did you learn from it?
5. What do you believe are the most important qualifications for a judge or justice?
For King County Prosecutor, the most important qualifications are: commitment to accountability, integrity and community; cultural and historical acknowledgement of institutional racism and bias; leadership based on emotional intelligence, listening and human connection.
6. What prompted you to run for this office? What priorities are you seeking to address with your campaign?
Witnessing first hand the injustice and racism in our criminal justice system for far too long. Very little has changed over the last twenty years since I became an attorney. The criminal justice system remains massive, cruel, and unfair, especially to poor people and communities of color. While Mr. Satterberg has diverted a small number of people out of the system, the prosecutor’s office continues to use failed approaches and aggressively leverage plea deals through coercion. As a result, our prison population remains much too large and it is harming people every day and making us less safe. I could no longer sit by and let this office go unchallenged as the Republican incumbent maintains draconian policies while occupying space that demand real progressive leadership and reform.
As Prosecutor, I would commit to sentencing reform and end failed, prison-based approaches that we know are not working. This will require reversing some “tough on crime” approaches, particularly around property crimes and other felony crimes where community safety can be better achieved through other models. It will also require expansion of diversion-based programs.
I will immediate engageme with our communities, particularly our most vulnerable ones. This means getting community members in, on day one, to train us about their needs and challenges. We must stop top stigmatizing homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and drug addiction, and my filing decision will reflect those values. I will be a vocal advocate against the current Youth Jail and in support of better (and less costly) models. Instead of threatening families with incarceration, I will work with parents and teachers to keep kids in schools. I will respect and honor women’s autonomy, especially in cases of domestic violence and also with sex work. I will promote jury diversity and prevent jury discrimination by any of my deputies.
I will also promote a more thorough and transparent inquest process for investigating law enforcement abuses.
Over ninety-five percent of all cases in King County are resolved through plea deals. In many cases, our county prosecutor coerces defendants using threats of higher sentences if a case goes to trial. When people do demand their day in court, the prosecutor’s office responds by managing its caseload so as to impose lengthy delay. During these delays, many indigent defendants are detained unnecessarily because prosecutors demand and obtain excessive bail. These practices undermine justice, community faith, fairness, and individual rights. From bail requests and charging decisions to sentencing recommendations, the prosecutor needs to have a broader view of these impacts. The Prosecutor must understand that its job is not simply to lock people away, but to facilitate restitution and rehabilitation in our community. I will end the practice of coercing higher sentences under severe threat (as distinguished from fair bargaining). I will use bail only for its legitimate purposes, only at reasonable levels, and not as a de-facto means of detention against poor people. I will ensure that every case is prosecuted as efficiently as possible, consistent with fundamental fairness.
7. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?
We have just launched our campaign. Ours was a recent decision that came in response to persistent but mounting frustrations in communities around the County. Because this is an ostensibly non-partisan race between only two candidates, it is not on the ballot in the primary. We are already receiving very positive reception from the key communities most affected by the justice system. Our opponent is the Republican incumbent Dan Satterberg, who has gone unchallenged for 11 years. To appeal to voters, we plan on continuing to meet with all communities as we evolve our platform so that we can be a true voice for them. Some groups we will specifically reach out to include: all Legislative District Democrats in King County, Real Justice PAC, Washington State Democrats, Washington State Progressive Caucus, The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Our Revolution. We will reach out to educators, multiple labor unions, elected officials, and many more.
Part II – Position-specific
1. Do you support making it easier for Washingtonians who are not members of the bar to access public records, particularly at the Superior/District court levels, where per-page fees are charged?
Yes. Access to public records should not be constructively denied on account of poverty.
2. Do you have any thoughts on how our courts should address the growing use of smartphones during court proceedings, particularly by jurors?
I assume this question is more directed at judges, but obviously it’s a problem we should be paying attention to.
3. Is Washington relying too much on court fees to cover the cost of operating our judicial system? How do you believe our courts should be funded?
Yes. Our courts need non-regressive funding sources. It’s especially important that judicial costs not impede re-entry. A particularly egregious example of this right now is our court system (clerk’s offices) sell non-conviction data to criminal history search companies to fund operations. There are many other examples of fines and costs burdening vulnerable populations. Our courts should be funded adequately at the legislative level, and we should also reduce inefficiency and waste. The King County Prosecutor can do this by immediately stopping costly, failed incarceration-based approaches that we know do not work, and re-orient toward protecting community safety in partnership with communities. The Prosecutor can also employ better staffing practices to move cases forward more quickly and reduce waste.
Part III – Access to Justice
1. If elected, how will you work to improve access to justice, particularly for communities and constituencies that do not understand the American legal system?
As Prosecutor, I would prioritize speedy trial, bail reform, transparency, and ensure that plea bargaining is not coercive. We cannot expect people to trust in a court system that is threatening, opaque, discriminatory or delayed. We must ensure that law enforcement is truly community-oriented at all levels (police and prosecution). Access to justice cannot exist without community support for our institutions. Our courts should be physically centered in communities, to reduce barriers to access. We must remove implicit bias from our courts so that people are not traumatized. We must eliminate financial barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, and all unfair barriers to justice.
2. What does the phrase Black Lives Matter mean to you as a judicial candidate?
That black lives matter. Our institutions systemically treat them like they don’t and it is our responsibility to fix this.
3. What ideas can you offer to make our judicial system more open, transparent, and responsive?
Most fundamentally, to be responsive, our justice system need to re-orient itself toward communities. The King County Prosecutor’s current policy of disclosing misconduct of police officers and professional witnesses is highly restrictive and does not comport with the law. We need to stop coercing plea bargains. Obtaining convictions by duress is the opposite of open, transparent and responsive justice. Currently, only 4% of cases go to trial. Our drug and mental health courts impose unjust restrictions against the poor and the mentally ill. Jury diversity must be promoted through an increase in the pay rate. Also, the courts are currently far behind when it comes to communicating with prospective jurors, which disproportionately impacts poor and minority jurors. When poor and minority jurors do appear, they are often discriminated against by the use of peremptory challenges. The prosecutor must do more to end discrimination in our justice system.
By typing my name below, I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.
Printed Name: Daron Morris