Coastal Post Online

May 2001

Retired DA Nukes Kamena Recall

I recently retired from the Marin County District Attorney's Office after working with Paula Kamena for many years. I am a cancer survivor and live in West Marin. I am absolutely outraged by the false allegations that are being made about Paula Kamena and her administration of the District Attorney's Office. I have a strong personal interest in seeing that sick people are treated fairly; the Marin County DA's office does so as well. Paula Kamena is an outstanding District Attorney who works long hours to insure the well-being of the many facets of the County's law enforcement system. Paula is fair-minded and community oriented. She is also one of the most compassionate people I know. Some of the allegations printed in previous issues of the Coastal Post are simply not true.

First, Kamena's policy on medical marijuana is simple. If you are sick, and you have a doctor's recommendation and possess the marijuana for personal use, you aren't prosecuted. Any of the numerous women in this community fighting breast cancer who use marijuana to fight the nausea caused by their other medications are not prosecuted. The DA does not proceed against people dying of AIDS. However, people who do not comply with the law - who buy marijuana and offer it to children or adults for non-medical use - are prosecuted, as are those who sell marijuana or possess it for purpose of sale.

The fairness of the DA's policy is well demonstrated by statistics. The very ambiguous and complex medical marijuana law (Proposition 215) was passed in 1996. In general, the Marin DA's Office reviews about 10,000 to 12,000 requests for prosecution per year from police agencies. The DA's Office recently reviewed cases from 1998, 1999, and 2000, consisting of over 30,000 investigative reports. About 800 of these cases involved marijuana charges - sales, transportation, cultivation - either standing alone or in conjunction with other charges (possession of other drugs, property crimes, crimes of violence). Of all the marijuana related cases during this period, the claim for medicinal marijuana use was raised by 73 individuals. Of those, the DA's Office filed 60, later dismissing about half of those when the proper medical proof was presented. In a little less than half of the remaining cases, guilty pleas were entered by those charged. Only 10 remain unsettled.

Paula Kamena's policies are among the fairest in the state and are patterned after those of Mendocino County District Attorney Norm Vroman. Vroman, a strong support of Proposition 215, has endorsed Kamena. He believe her policies are progressive and that Kamena is doing a good job of handling this complex arena of the law. Attorney General Bill Lockyer is also a strong supporter of Proposition 215 and is an equally strong supporter of Paula Kamena. He recently appeared in Marin at two events on her behalf and spoke highly of her work and her community efforts. He also denounced the misuse of the recall process, apparent to those who closely examine the issues.

Second, it is claimed by a small group of persons that the District Attorney's Office is mishandling Family Law cases. The DA's Office prosecutes criminal cases, and has no role in family custody courts. Any claims to the contrary are simply false. The particular case causing a furor relates to the prosecution of Carol Mardeusz. Public records show that in the fall of 1999, the DA's Office received a request for prosecution of Mardeusz, alleging that she had committed perjury and attempted kidnapping. The evidence showed that she had lost custody of her child some years earlier in the Sonoma Courts, where her ability to properly care for her daughter was at issue. Not content with the Sonoma ruling, Mardeusz first attempted, improperly, to obtain custody in the Sacramento County Family Law Court. Alert Sonoma school officials blocked her improper attempt to use questionable Sacramento County paperwork to take her daughter from her school. She was prosecuted and convicted in Sonoma criminal court for violating the Sonoma Family Court order.

Not content, Mardeusz then came to Marin County and filed perjured statements with Marin County's Family Law Court in a similar effort to obtain custody of the child. Again her efforts failed because of the alert school officials. Since the offenses of perjury and attempted kidnapping of the child took place in Marin, the request for criminal charges was lodged with the Marin DA's Office. In the process of this criminal prosecution, Mardeusz filed numerous challenges to the Marin courts and prosecution and repeatedly lost. Failing in the legal arena, her supporters entered the political arena. Petitions to recall judges who came into contact with her case were filed. On the eve of the criminal jury trial, a petition to recall Kamena was filed by this group. Mardeusz was convicted by a jury, notwithstanding extensive legal and political maneuvering, and her efforts to recall Kamena and the judges fizzled.

Taking up the cause, Lynnette Shaw and the Marin Medical Marijuana Alliance appeared at Marin County shopping centers. A number of the persons hired to obtain signatures to place the recall issue on the ballot were telling citizens to sign Mardeusz' recall petition if they supported medical marijuana. Many citizens were misled as to the purpose of the petitions because they were not told that the document they were signing was a petition to recall Kamena because of the Mardeusz prosecution. It appears that Lynnette Shaw and her group want to control the distribution of medical marijuana in this county. Some observers believe that multi-county dealers of marijuana are targeting Kamena in order to make Marin County an example and to enable them to control the policies of district attorneys in other counties.

Just before the filing date closed, Mardeusz' brother, Tom Van Zandt, filed candidacy papers to be the Marin County District Attorney should Paula Kamena be recalled. Should the recall succeed, he is the only alternative candidate and would become DA. Van Zandt, and I reiterate, he is the brother of Carol Mardeusz, was admitted to the California Bar to practice law in 1998. As of that year, Paula Kamena had been working in the District Attorney's Office for 15 years and that was the year she was elected to be Marin County's District Attorney. Moreover, Van Zandt is a patent attorney, who had had only minimal exposure as a lawyer to criminal law.

Surprisingly, Van Zandt's campaign them is "integrity." Thus far, the campaign against Kamena has been less than forthright. The recall process began by citizens signing petitions they believed were for the purpose of supporting medical marijuana. Next came the Erin Brockovich scandal in which press releases were issued saying that the famous woman was supporting the recall and would appear at a press conference with Van Zandt and that the recall campaign would file statements revealing the sources of their financial support. No press conference. No Van Zandt. No Brockovich. No financial statement filed. Brockovich publicly denounced the publicity stunt and denied any involvement, stating her name was fraudulently used. Now Van Zandt, who has no Marin County law enforcement support whatsoever, is misleading the public with his website. His website has been carrying the emblems of five Marin polices agencies, all of whom have endorsed Kamena, not Van Zandt. While Van Zandt's signs accuse Kamena of "vindictive" prosecution, is it not his entire campaign which smacks of vindictiveness?

Paula Kamena has been employed in the criminal justice system for over 30 years, first as a juvenile hall counselor, then as a prosecutor. She was sworn in as Marin County's District Attorney on January 4, 1999, and immediately went to work under the motto, "Prevention, Prosecution, Protection." Her goal is to build bridges to the community to make Marin a safer place to live. For example, when the murders of Selina Bishop, her mother and friend occurred, the Marin County DA's Office worked tirelessly with the Sheriff's Office and the Contra Costa DA's office, obtaining warrants that would eventually crack the case. Paula Kamena has also invested much effort in programs to create Marin's first Juvenile Drug Court and to reduce the number of mentally ill persons caught up in the criminal justice system.

The question on the recall ballot (on May 22) is, in essence, does Kamena deserve to be fired? The answer is a resounding, "No!" Kamena has treated the people of this county fairly and justly. She has generated many new programs and policies that benefit the entire county. She is an accomplished administrator and an effective liaison to the community. You only need to call, write or email her to get a response to your question. There is no lack of access to the DA in this county. To the contrary, Kamena is accessible and is very concerned about community involvement in the criminal justice system. I would urge the citizens of this county to vote "No" on the recall on May 22.

Suzanne Duerden

Stinson Beach



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