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Incoming San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris says she will recruit an outsider to help conduct a critical evaluation of the office to prepare for sweeping changes of everything from attorney assignments to training to case management. “I hope under my leadership,” she said, “we will, for the first time, be a model for the country of what a DA’s office can do.” The political newcomer beat incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan, 56 percent to 44 percent, in a runoff election Tuesday. When she takes office Jan. 8, she will become San Francisco’s first female district attorney. The two campaigns and local political observers Wednesday offered a variety of opinions on the key factors in the results. And some DA staffers admitted nervousness about the change in the office’s leadership. Attorneys who openly and prominently supported Hallinan’s campaign will be treated the same as everyone else, Harris pledged. “I plan to do an assessment of the talents, experience and job performance of all the lawyers in the office,” she said. She’ll evaluate assignments based on those factors as well as “the professional needs of the office.” “That is an assurance,” she said. Harris credited her victory, at least in part, to her campaign’s focus on coalition building. Voters wanted change, she said. “They want professionalism.” Hallinan attributed his loss to citywide movement in a conservative direction. His campaign also noted that Harris had far outspent him. Harris raised $620,921 to Hallinan’s $228,943 through Nov. 22. Harris’ message that she would be philosophically similar, but do a more effective job, took away the incumbent’s ability to debate her on ideology as he had done in past campaigns, said Public Defender Jeff Adachi, a Hallinan supporter. Harris’ polls predicted she would win by only 4 percent, but Harris campaign consultant Jim Stearns said a focus on absentee and Chinese-American voters, and Harris’ energy, proved key. She handily won the absentee vote, while her margin over Hallinan was much narrower among Election Day voters, Stearns noted. While her progressive credentials helped capture some supporters of mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez, said David Lee, executive director of Chinese American Voters Education Committee, “Kamala Harris benefited enormously” from Mayor-elect Gavin Newsom’s push to have supporters turn in absentee ballots. Peter Keane, the dean of Golden Gate University School of Law and a Harris supporter, speculated voters were particularly uneasy about “the total adversarial relationship” between Hallinan and the city’s police. On Wednesday, it was business as usual at the Hall of Justice, but Public Defender Adachi said he talked with prosecutors who voiced “a lot of fear and uncertainty.” “Everyone feels the fact that there is change in the air and a bit of uncertainty,” said Assistant DA Andrew Clark. Clark said he’s optimistic Harris won’t punish Hallinan supporters when she takes office. “She recognizes loyalty and will be expecting it when she’s the boss,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that she understands” why at least some staff was loyal to Hallinan. When the new boss is someone who’s never run a public office before, a staffer said, it adds to the uncertainty. “Since she’s been very low-key in her jobs, we don’t know what to expect.” Harris supporter Sandra Kearney, a former assistant DA who now works at Farella Braun & Martel, predicts Harris will boost office morale. “It will be a very positive change.” Michael Weiss, a deputy city attorney who used to work in the DA’s office, said he hopes Harris will turn to some veteran prosecutors whom Hallinan had passed over for leadership posts. Hallinan spent much of the gathering at his campaign headquarters Tuesday night comforting teary-eyed supporters, including some employees. “I know some of my DAs are sad and disappointed, but don’t be,” Hallinan said in his concession speech. The office will go ahead without “substantial” changes, he predicted. “My opponent basically adopted all of my policies on the death penalty, Three Strikes, diversions,” he told reporters. “Those will go on.” “I have confidence and hope that Kamala will be able to do a good job,” he added. Hallinan plans to re-enter private practice, doing criminal defense, and perhaps personal injury and lobbying work, he said. “I’ll figure out how I want to do it, if I want to go in with my brother or my son or my old ex-partners,” he said. His son, Brendan Hallinan, recently passed the bar. “I’m looking forward to being with my family again,” he told supporters Tuesday. After Hallinan returns Dec. 22 from Hawaii, where his son is getting married, he said, “I want to get the office in as much order as possible and hope to protect as much as I can my people.” In her victory speech, Harris echoed her campaign theme of largely hewing to the office’s progressive philosophy while improving its performance. “I do respect the work Terence Hallinan has done,” she said, adding that she looks forward to emphasizing rehabilitation for non-violent offenders. She said she also plans to take seriously the responsibility for winning convictions for serious and violent crimes. During an interview Wednesday at her campaign headquarters, in between congratulatory phone calls from supporters, she elaborated on her preliminary plans. “My first priority is to professionalize the office,” she said. “I’m going to put in place a public integrity unit, a child sexual assault unit and a training program” for assistant DAs and police. “I’m going to do an assessment before I do anything.” She’ll also “change the culture” between the DA’s office and the police department, she said. She pledges a consistent and mandatory training program for lawyers at all levels, on issues such as proper presentation of evidence, trial techniques and DNA. She hopes to use the expertise of lawyers within the office, as well as outside lawyers, she said. “The great thing about lawyers,” she said, “is that they love teaching and will often teach for free.” Other initial steps will include an inventory of every case in the office, in part to decide how to allocate resources, and an assessment of technological needs, she said. Harris envisions a computerized system that would track each case, including details such as the number of continuances, offers made and sentences sought and received. That will help her measure lawyer performance on an ongoing basis, she said. “One of the short-term goals is to go in that office and make it very clear to the lawyers � that they are valued,” Harris said. She can reflect their worth, she said, in policies governing promotions, assignments and accountability. Harris will likely want to appoint her own administrators. That probably means new jobs for Murlene Randle, Hallinan’s chief assistant DA; Paul Cummins, head of the criminal division; and Chief of Administration Linda Klee. Harris says she hasn’t decided on a management staff. “All applications are welcome,” she said. Any changes will be “staggered,” she added, starting at the beginning of her term. As she takes on her new role, Harris expects to seek advice from her former bosses, ex-City Attorney Louise Renne, who supported her campaign, and Alameda County DA Tom Orloff, as well as her current boss, City Attorney Dennis Herrera. Praising their work, she said, “I have no problem copying.” Under Harris, Keane predicts less of a revolving door in the No. 2 position than under Hallinan, and some rising stars. “My prediction is you’ll see some people who are rather lower-level people bubbling up.” Harris would be making a mistake if she purges outspoken Hallinan supporters, Keane added. “The last thing that you need in this office with this monumental change is to increase the paranoia level.” Harris may be constrained by the city’s tight budget and the terms of a union contract, Hallinan said. “You can’t demote them without huge payoffs.” The current contract with the Municipal Attorney’s Association, which covers all lawyers in the DA’s office except the district attorney and the chief assistant district attorney, now offers severance benefits. (Randle is covered by a separate contract that provides for 30 days’ severance.) Attorneys receive one-week severance pay for every year of service completed, said the DA’s chief financial officer, Teresa Serata. Veterans who have logged at least 20 years of service get an additional week’s severance pay for each year over 10 years. “There was no severance until Terence came in,” said Assistant DA John Dwyer, who represents deputy DAs in the MAA, noting that Hallinan fired several people when he took office in 1996. Hallinan delivered pink slips to 14 lawyers the month he took office, in a move that some said targeted supporters of his then-opponent Bill Fazio, who ran against him a third time this year. Severance provisions were added to the union contract in 1998, according to Hallinan’s office. But the latest contract includes more generous provisions. And attorneys in managerial positions who are covered by the MAA contract have recourse for demotions if they’ve worked at their level for at least two years: they can opt for a “release” and full severance. Hallinan said several of his employees told him they’d quit if he didn’t remain in office, “but I hope they’ll calm down.” Harris said she’s not sure how much room she’ll have to bring new people in from outside the office to fill or add positions. “I have to take a closer look at the budget,” she said, as well as the union contract. “Again, that’s part of the assessment.” “I intend and hope to work through a smooth transition with Terence,” Harris said, adding that she expects he’d work with her in the best interest of the city. “I hope that [Hallinan] would not do anything to jeopardize the ability of the office to function well.” The transition period between now and Jan. 8 will be intense for Harris, predicted Adachi. He had 10 months after his March 2002 election to study the office and pick a management staff, he noted. “To run an office of over 200 people and put your management staff in place, that’s a huge task.” Recorder Staff Writer Jahna Berry contributed to this story.

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