2016 Staffing
Staff Development Personnel2
Support Staff7

The Appellate & Training Division provides support to the District Attorney’s Office in the areas of motion practice, appellate practice, legal research, policy, ethics, legislation, training, and public records. Deputy District Attorney James E. Atkins was the Division Chief and Deputy District Attorney Mark Amador served as the Assistant Chief. Deputy District Attorney Patty Herian became Training Director and Deputy District Attorney Marcella McLaughlin moved into the role of office Ethics Coordinator, providing advice, assistance, and training to attorneys in matters relating to ethics and professionalism in and out of the courtroom. The division is also responsible for publishing legal resources for this office and prosecutors’ offices across the state, notably Autobrief, which is edited by Deputy District Attorney Craig E. Fisher.

Appellate prosecutors handle motions, appeals, and writ petitions. In addition, they serve as the legal advisor to the District Attorney’s Office, providing legal assistance to trial attorneys. Last year, appellate attorneys handled numerous motions, briefs, and oral arguments in the various California courts. In addition, they responded to hundreds of inquiries from prosecutors seeking legal advice. Attorneys in the division provided support for many high-profile cases and developed internal policies and procedures related to areas such as post-conviction discovery, public records requests, body-worn cameras, and implemented new laws and legal precedents.

Examples of significant cases and proceedings that were handled by the division include:

In re Zavala
The defendant pleaded guilty to felony grand theft from the person of another as a lesser included offense of robbery in 1998. After serving his prison term, he was committed to a state hospital as a mentally disordered offender and is still under commitment. Subsequently, he had his conviction reduced to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. The defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, requesting to have his offender status dismissed as he no longer has a qualifying felony conviction. DDA Marcella McLaughlin filed a well-written response to the habeas corpus petition. After considering her response, the Superior Court denied the petition.

In re Kirchner
In 1994, the defendant – who was 16 at the time of the offenses – was convicted of murder with an allegation that he committed the murder while engaged in the commission of a robbery and a burglary. He was also convicted of robbery and burglary, with allegations that he personally inflicted great bodily injury and personally used a deadly or dangerous weapon. He was sentenced to life without parole. In 2013 the defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, challenging his sentence under the recent United States Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama. After the Superior Court granted the petition, DDA Jennifer Kaplan appealed the ruling. The Court of Appeal agreed with our position and, in a published opinion, overturned the Superior Court’s order. The California Supreme Court thereafter granted review, and will hear oral argument sometime in 2017.

In re Johnson
A jury convicted the defendant in 2013 of multiple counts of child molestation. After his conviction was affirmed on appeal, the defendant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, contending his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel during jury selection by failing to inquire whether potential trial jurors has been a victim of sexual assault. As a result, a person who had been a victim of a sexual assault was seated as a juror. After DDA Kathryn Gayle submitted a lengthy and well-reasoned written response to the petition, the superior court held an evidentiary hearing and thereafter denied the petition, thereby preserving the various convictions.

Attorneys in the Appellate & Training Division also participated in the California District Attorneys Association, serving on the appellate, legislation, legal issues, and ethics committees. During 2016, the division responded to more than 100 California Public Records Act requests, and more than 200 inter-agency requests for records and information.

On the training side, the division continues to dedicate itself to the developing and coordinating high-quality, in-house training programs as a State Bar recognized MCLE provider. DDA Herian, Assistant Training Director Jim Kelly, and members of the Legal Training Advisory Committee devoted countless hours to successfully offer numerous in-house programs that provided all attorneys and paralegals with their continuing legal education requirements, allowing attorneys to maintain their license to practice law in the State of California. Examples of these programs are two annual all-day training sessions and numerous office-wide live-stream lectures that targeted current legal issues.