Hard for commissioners to go wrong with DA selection

The resignation of District Attorney David Roger, just one year into his third, four-year term, leaves a vacancy that by statute the Clark County Commission must fill.

Mr. Roger announced late last year that he was leaving effective Jan. 3. He has subsequently taken a position as general counsel with the Las Vegas Police Protective Association.

Seven lawyers applied to succeed Mr. Roger. A screening panel whittled those seven to the three remaining candidates: Steve Wolfson, a defense attorney and Las Vegas city councilman; John Hunt, former chair of the county Democratic Party and a local attorney; and Drew Christensen, the county’s director of the Office of Appointed Counsel.

Each candidate has a strong background and would bring a unique set of strengths to the $182,000-a-year job. That’s important, because the district attorney manages a $65 million budget and more than 700 employees, including 150 deputy district attorneys who handle about 65,000 cases a year.

The affable Mr. Hunt has practiced law for three decades, primarily working in civil law. His upbeat personality and easy-going demeanor might go a long way toward improving morale in the office, which is a concern, according to all of the finalists.

Mr. Wolfson served both as a county and federal prosecutor before opening a private practice in 1987. He has extensive experience in criminal law, and his nearly eight years on the City Council give him a perspective on civil law that the other candidates may not have.

Finally, Mr. Christensen has a wide range of experience as both a private and government attorney. He spent three years in private practice with former District Attorney Rex Bell and has served as both a county prosecutor and a public defender. He also has a degree in electrical engineering along with an MBA, providing him with a more diverse background than his competitors.

All three men say that if selected they’d be more active in dealing with fatal police shootings. All three also vowed to be more selective in applying the death penalty, and to work to attract top-flight talent to the office.

When commissioners meet to make their selection Tuesday, they face a tough choice. Any one of the three would be a competent district attorney.

But we give a slight edge to Steve Wolfson. While his wide range of legal experience — especially in criminal law, which is the bulk of the district attorney’s workload — would alone stand out, his service on the City Council pushes him to the top. As a councilman, Mr. Wolfson has been involved in crafting and applying city ordinances and building a consensus to accomplish an agenda. He’s overseen a multimillion-dollar budget. He’s intimately familiar with the machinations of local government and has proved himself an accountable public steward.

Mr. Wolfson says he’ll run a “transparent and open office” that will emphasize integrity, fairness and efficiency. Commissioners should give him the chance to do precisely that.

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