March 13, 2008
More on the new interim DA

Here's today's version of the story from last night that named assistant U.S. attorney in Houston Kenneth Magidson as the acting DA till a replacement is elected. I'm mostly interested in people's reactions to him:

Bert Graham, who has helmed the office since Rosenthal's Feb. 15 resignation, said he is glad Perry found someone "who's willing, able and qualified."

"He started out here, like most people do, in the misdemeanor courts, and moved up to be a chief prosecutor in a felony court," Graham said. "He did a really good job here."

Other assistant district attorneys were also optimistic about the appointment as word spread through the courthouse halls Wednesday.

Patrick McCann, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said he doesn't know Magidson, but that he has a reputation as a man of integrity among defense attorneys.

"He's a solid and fair-minded man," McCann said. He said he looks forward to discussing policies with the interim DA, including the way the office charges minor drug cases, diversity in the office and a possible innocence commission -- all ideas that have been debated in the district attorney's race.

Asked about whether Magidson is more likely to be a caretaker or clean house in the nine months before a new district attorney takes office after November's election, McCann forecast that it would be a mix of both.

"I hope he brings a fresh perspective to the office," McCann said. "And I think a fair and honest man is going to make some changes."

So far so good. You never know what you're going to get with a Perry appointment, but it looks like this one is well qualified. That's a fine start.

Two candidates for district attorney said they don't expect Magidson to make major changes like the reforms that have been suggested in the wake of the Rosenthal scandals.

Sweeping improvements "will take more time and energy and effort than this interim (appointee) will have," said Democratic contender C.O. Bradford, the former Houston police chief.

Bradford said he was confident the next district attorney will apply the law evenly to everyone.

Prosecutor Kelly Siegler, who faces former Judge Pat Lykos in the April 8 Republican primary runoff, said of Magidson, "In the capacity of being a caretaker, I am not sure what kind of changes he would be expected to make.

"I think he would have the best interest of the office at heart," Siegler added. "Certainly the governor's office understands that the person they appoint needs to have many years of experience as a prosecutor and someone who is a prosecutor now and understands what it takes to prosecute criminals in the year 2008."

She has emphasized her credentials as a prosecutor in the contest against Lykos, who was a felony court judge through 1994.

Lykos said she was pleased that reforms could begin immediately under a new district attorney "and that the Rosenthal-Siegler era will be ending."

"What's really important is not my candidacy, but the restoration of public trust in the office," she said, adding that she would be available to suggest any reforms or provide any advice sought by Magidson.

What should we expect this guy to do while he's here? I think he should generally resist the urge to make any policy changes, but if there are process issues that can be dealt with, they should be. This isn't his office - in a few months, it's going to be somebody else's. He shouldn't ignore anything that's obviously broken if it can be fixed by him, but neither should he go putting his stamp on the place. I don't think that should be too hard.

Anyway, as I said last night, welcome aboard, Mr. Magidson. It'll be interesting to see what the place looks like in a few months.

UPDATE: Via Grits, some more positive reactions from Mark Bennett and A Harris County Lawyer.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 13, 2008 to Local politics
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