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Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff Announced Resignation Today
by dave id
Tuesday Sep 8th, 2009 4:16 PM
Alameda DA Orloff -- DA since 1994 and in the prosecutor's office since the 1970s -- suddenly announced his resignation at the Alameda Board of Supervisors meeting today. Orloff was expected to retire then rather than run for re-election.
An exact reason why now is not known. Community activists had batted around the idea of recalling Orloff for his recalcitrance to prosecute Johannes Mehserle and other murdering cops, but those efforts never hit full stride. Perhaps Orloff is simply allowing his recommended replacement time to become a comfortable incumbent before next year's DA elections. He ran unopposed every time, and so it may be for his replacement.

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by tribune
Tuesday Sep 8th, 2009 4:28 PM
Alameda County DA Tom Orloff unexpectedly resigns today

By Chris Metinko and Paul T. Rosynsky
Oakland Tribune
Posted: 09/08/2009 01:19:14 PM PDT
Updated: 09/08/2009 03:38:30 PM PDT

OAKLAND — Longtime Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff surprisingly announced his retirement at the county's board of supervisors meeting this afternoon.

"It's really simple," said Orloff, 66, who has been the county's district attorney for 15 years and has served in the office for 40 years. "It's a thing when you know it's time."

Orloff asked the supervisors to appoint a new district attorney as early as next week. He recommended Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

"Nancy will not only be a very capable leader of the office, she is also the only person prepared to manage the remainder of this year's budget process and to navigate through the next very difficult budget year," Orloff wrote in a letter to the supervisors, which he read Tuesday.

O'Malley — who is 55 and has been in the District Attorney's Office for 25 years — called Orloff's decision to retire "a great loss" and said he has had a "spectacular career."

Orloff had one year remaining on his term and would have been up for re-election in June. Now the county supervisors must appoint a new district attorney to serve the remainder of Orloff's term until a new district attorney is elected in June.

Orloff, whose first grandchild was born recently, said he that felt it was time to move on and that he wanted to leave while still in good health.

Orloff became the county's top cop in 1994 when he ran unopposed to fill the
seat of then-retiring District Attorney Jack Meehan. Before that, Orloff worked as the chief assistant to Meehan, the same position O'Malley currently holds.

Orloff joined the District Attorney's Office in 1970 and immediately was appointed to handle the highest-profile cases.

But Orloff did not always secure convictions.

Probably one of his biggest disappointments was the repeated failed attempts to convict Black Panther Party member Huey Newton of murder. Orloff twice tried to convince a jury to convict Newton of murdering a prostitute. He failed both times.

A third charge, the pistol-whipping of a tailor, against Newton eventually was reduced after the tailor refused to testify.

"It illustrated to me that in certain situations, the system couldn't work," Orloff said in a 1994 Oakland Tribune article. "I really couldn't make it happen, and that was very frustrating."

More recently, Orloff's office failed to win convictions against three rogue Oakland police officers dubbed the Riders who were accused of beating West Oakland residents and falsifying police reports to place them in jail.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman said Orloff's leadership helped keep the District Attorney's Office the best in the state.

"The office is still the best in the state. They are the best-trained," Goodman said. "I never have any complaints against any of the district attorneys that come into my office, and that is a reflection of their leadership."

Defense attorney Deborah Levy, who lost a death penalty case against Orloff in 2007, said Orloff will be sorely missed in the defense attorney community.

"I'm going to miss that guy," Levy said. "I think his office is the best District Attorney's Office to deal with. They understand what a case is worth, and they know where the fights are. Tom exemplified that."

Levy defended Irving Ramirez, who was found guilty and sentenced to death for killing San Leandro police Officer Nels "Dan" Niemi. It was the first case Orloff tried in 15 years.

In his letter to the board, Orloff wrote: "With each decision I have tried to meet the highest standards of a public prosecutor. I may not have always made the right decision. Sometimes there is no right decision. One thing is constant; I have made each decision in what I believed to be the best interest of maintaining an effective, unbiased criminal justice system here in Alameda County."

The announcement clearly caught the supervisors offguard. Orloff came to the podium at the very end of the meeting to read his letter, and the supervisors thanked him for his hard work and dedication to public service.

Orloff proudly would inform first-time visitors to his office that his desk was the same one that had been used by Earl Warren when he was the county's top prosecutor, before Warren went on to serve as California's attorney general, three terms as governor and 16 years as chief justice of the United States.

But Orloff didn't harbor those kinds of political ambitions, seemingly content to run unopposed for re-election in 1998, 2002 and 2006. He and Charles Plummer, who retired in January 2007 after 20 years as Alameda County sheriff, shared a tradition: They'd file their candidacy papers, visit the Registrar of Voters office just before the filing deadline, then they'd have a drink together to toast their lack of opposition.

"We never took anything for granted, that's for sure," Plummer said Tuesday. "But Tom Orloff has been an outstanding DA for the county — probably, in my view, the best DA in the state of California. I don't think anybody's close to him."

"I'm happy for him because he can do so many other things," Plummer added. "The county's going to miss him, I can tell you that."

Staff writer Josh Richman contributed to this story.
Alameda DA Orloff Announces His Retirement

Posted: 1:39 pm PDT September 8, 2009Updated: 1:44 pm PDT September 8, 2009
OAKLAND -- Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff announced at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that he has decided to retire, effective as soon as the board can appoint a replacement.

Orloff, 66, who has been in the office nearly 40 years and has headed it for the past 15, recommended that the board act next week to appoint Chief Assistant District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to fill the rest of his four-year term, which expires at the end of next year.

The district attorney's position will be on the ballot next year.

Orloff told the Board of Supervisors, "If you select Nancy, next year the voters will decide if your choice of Nancy was correct. I am confident they will affirm your selection."

Orloff's announcement seemed to take the board by surprise.

After the meeting, Orloff said he had simply decided that "it's time" to retire.

"I still have my good health and there are some things I want to do," he said.

Orloff said, "My grandson is one year old and I want to spend time with him so he gets to know his grandfather."

Supervisor Gail Steele told Orloff, "You've done a good job and have represented the county well."

Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker said, "We're very fortunate to have had your leadership the last 15 years."

In his announcement to the board, Orloff said, "Over the past 15 years as district attorney I have been called on to make many decisions. Many have received little or no public attention. A few have been scrutinized in the public eye."

One such decision was the question of whether to charge former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in connection with the shooting death of Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale station on Jan. 1.

Some community leaders criticized Orloff for taking too long to file charges against Mehserle. Orloff did file a murder charge against Mehserle on Jan. 13.

According to Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, it is the first murder prosecution in California of a police officer for an on-duty homicide.

On Feb. 10, a civil rights group delivered a petition to Orloff with more than 20,000 signatures asking that he charge a second BART police officer, Tony Pirone, in connection with Grant's death but Orloff has declined to do so.

O'Malley, 55, has been in the District Attorney's office for 25 years and has been chief assistant district attorney for 10 years.

She said Orloff's retirement "is a great loss" and said "Tom has been a great leader."

Copyright 2009 by and Bay City News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
by reader
Tuesday Sep 8th, 2009 9:12 PM

So Orloff was in the place for 40 years. Well, he's the kind of guy who would've wasted his life no matter where he was or what he did.