Local opinion: Conover's progressive agenda has not worked in reality

Deborah Bernini is a retired Superior Court Judge.

All elections are important, but we as a community have one coming up that will affect all of us in Pima County for the next four years: the primary election for Pima County Attorney between Laura Conover and Mike Jette. The letters to the editor in the Star and the opinion articles for the last few months have shown passionate support for each candidate, but there has been something missing that I would like to address, which is the reality of what Ms. Conover’s tenure has already brought to Pima County. It has not been good.

I retired in 2023 after 29 years on the Superior Court bench. Prior to that I served as a Public Defender when the County Attorney was Steve Neely. When I became a Superior Court Judge, the County Attorney’s Office was run by Barbara LaWall. I found many of their policies to be harsh so I was hopeful that a new county attorney would bring positive change. But when I heard that Laura Conover would be running, I was at a loss. Why was she interested in being the County Attorney? She had little experience as a criminal defense lawyer and nothing as a prosecutor. None of my colleagues could recall her trying a jury trial in their courtrooms. We were told she was bringing a retired Presiding Superior Court Judge on board to advise her, which sounded good, but it never happened. She brought a friend who was a former public defender and a law professor.

None of them knew how to manage a prosecutors’ office. Many of us were intrigued when Conover ran on a progressive platform, as it certainly meant a dramatic change. But I knew from experience that what sounds good in theory or looks good in writing usually has little to do with reality. Stop prosecuting drug cases and use treatment alternatives. End cash bail and release more defendants on their own recognizance. Reduce more felonies to misdemeanors. It sounded good to many. But when reality hit, it hit us hard.

Deborah Bernini, Special to the Arizona Daily Star