Referring to Walworth County’s alternative court programs for drug and alcohol abusers, it was recently published that District Attorney (DA) Zeke Wiedenfeld will withdraw his support for the program if judges are permitted to overrule a prosecutor’s recommendations on which offenders go into the alternative court programs. Although it is doubted that he would actually do that, because of the benefit that the program has done for individuals and the community as a whole, Zeke might have made the statement as a means to draw attention to the lack of good guidelines for recommending individuals for the program.
In any case, it should be pointed out that a “recommendation” is a “recommendation” and that it should not be binding law. Tying a judge’s hands to a district attorney’s recommendations is to give the district attorney authority over the judge. The judge has the authority to pronounce a sentence, not the district attorney, even though a district attorney can effectively conclude a case with a sort of ‘not guilty’ by not prosecuting that case. It, however, still rightly belongs to a judge to determine what happens in the administration of justice that goes on in the courtroom, because the judge has no stake in the issue; whereas, the district attorney does. Furthermore, if the judge does have a stake in the issue, then the judge should be excused from the case. In addition, with the judge having the final approval, it serves as a check and balance on the plea agreement that the district attorney has reached with the defendant and his or her attorney.
The alternative program for drug and alcohol abusers is aimed at helping those with a drug or alcohol problem to overcome the problem or addiction, which can be extremely difficult to do, even with help. For a DA to say that he will not participate in the alternative court program because a judge may disagree with that decision, and may include someone that the DA excluded or may exclude someone that the DA included is to deny or exclude others who would benefit from the program access to the program. The judges in courts are called judges for good reason. Let them be the judge. Prosecutor Zeke was proven to be a fair and effective man, but he might consider backing down on this issue.