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SAN JOSE — The leader of Santa Clara County’s misdemeanor trial team was named assistant district attorney on Monday, part of a series of changes in the office following the retirement of longtime prosecutor Thomas Fahrenholz. David Howe will oversee narcotics, asset forfeiture, drug treatment court, misdemeanors, the North County division, attorney training and alternative dispute resolution, District Attorney George Kennedy said. In addition, Kennedy announced changes in the assignments of Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller. Buller, who oversaw the entire misdemeanor team, as well as the South County offices, will now be in charge of Three Strikes cases, gangs, burglaries and thefts, preliminary hearings, South County cases and community prosecution. Howe was promoted after at least six attorneys interviewed for the position, a top management slot. “We were fortunate to have good applicants with broad experience but I chose Dave because his qualities were the most helpful to me right now,” Kennedy said. “Dave has what I need — and when I say that, I mean he’s experienced and has been a good manager.” Assistant DA Karyn Sinunu added that Howe is “extremely well-rounded, hard- working and approachable.” “These are going to be good changes for the office,” she said. Howe, 45, has worked in the DA’s office for 15 years. Before that, the Santa Clara University School of Law graduate was in private practice for more than three years with the Law Offices of W. James Snyderin Hayward, where he practiced personal injury and family law. “I’m honored and excited by the opportunity to do this job,” Howe said. “I’ve been a trial attorney and a team leader, so the opportunity to be an assistant is something I’m grateful for.” Howe said he will evaluate the needs of all the divisions he will supervise before making any changes, although he added, “I will see if we can be more efficient and responsive to the courts.” Kennedy said the changes had been in the works for some time since he knew Fahrenholz planned to retire. Kennedy also named Deputy District Attorney Kurt Kumli to the new position of chief deputy for juvenile cases. Kennedy said the changes will help him deal with the loss of experienced attorneys. He said if the office “loses a few more [attorneys] in the near future, it will get pretty challenging.” The public defender’s office also had recent changes in its top management. Two long-term assistant defenders were replaced last spring, and Assistant Public Defender David Mann, the second in charge after Public Defender Jose Villarreal, just announced his retirement. The changes come in the midst of an increasingly heated race for district attorney in 2006. Kennedy has not said whether he will run again, but numerous candidates have lined up for the position. Sinunu has said she will run if Kennedy retires. Other candidates interested in the job include Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Field, Government Attorneys Association President James Shore and Superior Court Judges Ron Del Pozzo and Edward Lee.

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