Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office has hemorrhaged hundreds of attorneys throughout his first term, reportedly throwing his office into chaos.
Krasner took office in 2018 as a progressive district attorney backed by financier George Soros. Since taking office, Krasner has prioritized progressive changes to the criminal justice system, such as lax bail policies and reduced prosecutions for certain crimes.
Krasner recruited many young progressive attorneys to join his office after his election win, but dozens of those have already split from Krasner, joining dozens of other senior attorneys in leaving the office. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on the impact of the exodus:
In all, the loss of 261 attorneys during Krasner’s first term has thrown the office — already beset by conflict with the police and judiciary, and mired in pandemic-related backlogs — into what some describe as a state of chaos.
Although the office, which employs about 340 lawyers, has been hiring to offset the losses, the churn is affecting its ability to manage its caseload, according to 19 current and former DA’s Office staffers who spoke with The Inquirer.
Jennifer Newman, who worked as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office for three years before she left in August, cited a lack of institutional support and an “unsustainable” caseload.
“I got to a point where I was afraid I was going to start missing things, and that for me was unacceptable,” Newman said. “I was not going to have one of these cases slip through the cracks because of me.”
While Krasner acknowledged the high attrition rate at his office, he has blamed the flood of attorneys leaving on private practices luring attorneys away with higher pay and better benefits.
Krasner ran for office promising to cut prosecutions for crimes such as drug possession and prostitution, claiming that such prosecutions are leading to overincarceration and crowded prisons. After taking office, prosecutions under Krasner dropped and homicides exploded. In 2021, Philadelphia has been wracked by more than 500 murders, a new record for the city.
Krasner has pushed back against allegations that Philadelphia is facing a crime wave and that tourists and residents should be wary. The progressive DA has pointed out that while gun crimes are rising, crimes not involving firearm violence have fallen.
“We don’t have a crisis of lawlessness, we don’t have a crisis of crime, we don’t have a crisis of violence,” Krasner said at a press conference earlier this month. “It’s important that we don’t let this become mushy and bleed into the notion that there is some kind of big spike in crime.”
Philadelphia’s crime made headlines Wednesday after Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) was reportedly mugged and her car stolen in South Philadelphia.
After the incident, a spokeswoman for the congresswoman said that Scanlon was “physically OK, but her vehicle and possessions are gone.”
“[Scanlon] thanks the Philadelphia Police Department for their swift response, and appreciates the efforts of both the Sergeant at Arms in DC and her local police department for coordinating with Philly PD to ensure her continued safety,” the spokeswoman added.