Fresno's new DA looks for positive change

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno's district attorney's office is under new leadership Monday for the first time in twelve years.

Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp campaigned for the job with ideas to clear up the logjam in court. If they work, cases could move quicker, criminals could move faster into programs or prison, and the revolving door at the Fresno County jail could finally slow down.

High up the County Plaza building, inside a nondescript office, a simple balloon bouquet reflected the sentiments of the prosecutors at the district attorney's office. A judge swore in Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp as the new DA Monday morning. But this is a homecoming for her -- back to the office where she worked for more than 12 years.

"It was a great day for me and I'm excited and very honored to be leading such a great group of people who help us keep the community safe," she said.

Day one may be about ceremony -- she actually attended two of them along with three freshly minted assistants -- but it's also about figuring out what's ahead.

"The list of to-dos is very long," she said. "It's a new job for me."

During a tough campaign, Smittcamp pledged to undo the top-down leadership she said was clogging up the courts. She says probation, police and public defenders also need funding to make sure victims get justice.

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says we could soon see a difference in how quickly justice comes.

"I'm not saying people are going to be treated a lot easier or get better deals, but decisions will be made a lot faster and move the cases along," he said.

Capozzi says several complex cases are probably waiting for the new DA to decide whether to file charges.

Smittcamp says she hasn't been able to review cases yet. That'll start on day two.

"We are going to make that a priority - to kind of get in and dig in to see what needs to be finished up, what needs to be maybe started," she said.

Smittcamp's goal is to institute new training and hopefully make the positive changes noticeable after about six months.

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