After 28 months on the job, veteran prosecutor Clint Campion announced Friday he is stepping down as the Anchorage District Attorney. Campion took over in May, 2015, after Sharon Marshall retired.
Campion said Monday that he had accepted a job with Anchorage-based law firm Sedor Wendlandt Evans & Filippi.
“I’ve gotten to know the people at the firm, and I think it’s a really good opportunity for me personally and professionally, and I just want to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s there,” he said.
Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said she accepted his resignation with “mixed feelings.”
“He has been a tireless advocate for the people of Alaska and will be greatly missed by the department. But I wish him the best in his next endeavors,” she wrote in a press release.
As Anchorage DA, Campion oversaw all felony matters in the Anchorage Bowl, plus state prosecutions through Bristol Bay and the Aleutians.
While there are state courts in Dillingham, Naknek, Sand Point, Unalaska and St. Paul, only Dillingham has a district attorney’s office supervised by Anchorage. That office barely survived budget cuts, and Campion counts it a big win that it stayed open and staffed with a locally-residing attorney.
“That was a big concern of mine throughout the time I was DA, and I think with Dan Doty out there, we’re in the best position we’ve been in in a long time. If that had not been settled, I don’t think I’d be as comfortable leaving,” Campion said.
He was also proud to see Gustaf Olson promoted from the Anchorage office to become the Kodiak DA.
Budget cuts have made the work of prosecutors more difficult, as has Senate Bill 91. In some areas, especially surrounding drug crimes, the public often calls for stiffer penalties than the new criminal justice reforms provide for. The prosecutor may take the heat for failing to put suspected dealers behind bars, though he or she is operating under the sentencing guidelines crafted by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Bill Walker.
Campion said SB 91 has “changed the landscape,” but that the verdict is out about how effective it has been to reduce recidivism and the costs of incarceration.
“I guess I’ll take a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Senate Bill 91,” he said. “But those things [budget cuts and changes from SB 91] were not the reasons I’m leaving. I’m not leaving because I’m frustrated or unhappy with the administration. The administration has been really good to me personally, and I think they’re really recognizing the hard work of the Anchorage DA’s office, and are providing the support that we need.”
In interviews about specific cases over the past five years, Campion has always pointed out that the job of prosecutors is to seek justice, not just convictions. Justice is hard to define and harder still to achieve, and the state places enormous authority in district attorneys to carry out the task.
“The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation, than any other person in America,” Robert H. Jackson famously said in 1940.
Choosing which cases to prosecute, which to deal down, take to trial, or dismiss, and being accountable to the public, is something Campion said he will miss about the job.
“Seeking justice is the primary focus,” he said, “but what’s just as important is … in the face of public scrutiny or unhappiness with certain segments of the criminal justice system, we’ve been able to stick by our decisions and explain them. And I guess that would be a proud part of my reign as DA.”
Campion said professionally he was looking forward to branching out into a new area of law, perhaps in areas of education, and personally to spend more time with his family.
The Dept. of Law said Deputy District Attorney Christina Sherman will take over as the interim head of the Anchorage office after October 6, Campion’s last day on the job. The permanent position will be filled through an open recruitment of “experienced prosecutors” across the state.