Last week, San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson and Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin were guests on KABC’s The Blueline Podcast.

The role and expectations of district attorneys is a topic of discussion in Los Angeles County lately. District Attorney George Gascon recently became the new DA. His policies have raised concerns among crime victims, law enforcement, and his own staff. District Attorneys Jason Anderson and Michael Hestrin were invited onto KABC’s “The Blue Line Podcast” to discuss their roles as district attorneys with host Moses Castillo.


“The role of a district attorney is to enforce the law. There are certain confines that we operate within, two of them being the California penal code, which is written by our legislators, and the California constitution, which has existed and has been added onto by the voters, by initiative, and by other legislative acts,” said Mr. Anderson.

There are many things district attorneys are required to do within the realm of the law. Many of those areas offer discretion, in which district attorneys can establish their own policies in the county they serve.


District attorneys must define the difference between their policy and an obligation under the law that all district attorneys must follow.

When speaking about the rule of law related to victims, which is incorporated in the constitution and related to sentencing enhancements, Mr. Anderson does not see the rule of law as being restricted by a time, place, and manner. It is applicable all the time. In fact, this is the only way a district attorney can be free from being arbitrary. District attorneys can exercise discretion based on facts and circumstances but within boundaries. Items that have been in place by the law are not something where discretion can be used, solely because we have a personal objection to it.

Mr. Hestrin added, “As district attorneys, we are charged with seeking justice. Always justice. And we enforce laws.” District attorneys are not permitted to do an injustice. We pursue the truth and safeguard the rights of everyone to ensure justice in our communities. As prosecutors, we do not make the law. District attorneys must accept the laws as they’re written and enforce them accordingly, without bias. “We don’t have the discretion, and we don’t have the power to become a law unto ourselves.”


While we may have a case in our office, and both law enforcement and even the prosecutor may believe the defendant is guilty of committing the crime, we are held to a standard of proving the defendant committed the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, in court. So even though the truth is that a defendant committed a crime, our ethics and justice sometimes cause Mr. Hestrin and Mr. Anderson to reject a case to be filed.

When we’re talking about taking a case to court, each and every element must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. “Anything short of that, and we don’t move forward with a case,” said Mr. Anderson.

Mr. Anderson added what many people don’t understand is that seeking justice also means rejecting cases. The public doesn’t realize the abundance of cases that are rejected by the district attorney’s office because the case can’t be proven in a court of law. Mr. Anderson said, “Justice is not just a conviction.”

District Attorney Jason Anderson
District Attorney Jason Anderson


While deputy district attorneys must follow the policies set forth by their respective district attorneys, they can never be asked to violate the constitution, their ethics, or to violate the law. “Our ethics are non-negotiable as prosecutors, no matter who we work for, ethics have to be the number one thing. And that’s got to be non-negotiable” added Mr. Hestrin.


Mr. Hestrin explained that victim rights are enshrined in California’s constitution. District attorneys cannot waiver in the obligation to the law or to victims. Prosecutors are not cold-blooded professors of law who don’t care about victims. It is a prosecutors’ duty to protect the rights of victims.

A prosecutor really feels their calling and importance when they have personal moments with victims, such as holding the hand of a parent who’s lost a son or daughter to violence. Mr. Hestrin explained that something changes in you as a person that day, and you feel the full weight of the consequences of heinous crimes, and you really want to fight in court. When someone loses their son or daughter to a violent murder, it’s an injustice that just tears at our society. Mr. Hestrin believes prosecutors have no choice but to continue to fight as best they can for victims because it’s just who we are and what we do as not only prosecutors but officers of the court.

District Attorney Michael Hestrin
District Attorney Michael Hestrin


District Attorney’s Anderson and Hestrin are advocates for continual monitoring of the criminal justice system and improving it. The system has never attained, yet continually strives for, perfection.

However, that reform must be according to the law and the constitution, not based upon the public’s popular opinion or consensus. There is not one reform to which everyone will like. Still, everyone should appreciate that the justice system is followed ethically by their elected district attorneys in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.