Pubdate: Tue, 27 Sep 2005
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Pulitzer Community Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Marsha Dorgan, Register Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Napa lawyer Jeff Hammond is taking on incumbent Gary Lieberstein for 
the Napa County district attorney job.

Hammond, 53, has been the first candidate to challenge Lieberstein, 
who hopes to be re-elected for his third term in June 2006.

Before going into private practice last June, Hammond worked with the 
Napa and Lake counties district attorney offices.

"I've been thinking about running for district attorney for several 
years. I think the time is right," Hammond said. "I think the people 
of this county need a DA who is willing to put his time in at the 
office and provide leadership. And I don't see that happening now."

Hammond said he wants to improve the district attorney's office 
working relationship with law enforcement.

"I believe the lines of communication have broken down. For several 
years, I have gone on ride-alongs with officers and deputies. You 
really get a different perspective of what they are up against," 
Hammond said. "It's one thing to read a police report about a 
domestic violence, but it's totally different when you are at the 
scene and see the battered victims, the crying children and the 
impact it has on them."

Hammond said he's had officers tell him they are frustrated because 
the district attorney's office is not filing criminal charges on 
their cases, with no explanation. "If I'm elected, I would encourage 
all of the deputy DAs to go on a ride along at least once a year," 
Hammond said.

Dave Baker, executive director of local 614 Services Employee 
International Union, which represents Napa County employees, said he 
believes "Jeff would make an excellent district attorney."

"He has a big challenge in front of him taking on Gary (Lieberstein), 
but I believe Jeff is a capable and competent attorney," Baker said. 
"Everyone regarded his work as excellent."

Hammond said his people skills are one of his strong points.

"I believe any elected official should be visible and willing to meet 
with people in all walks of life. I would be making rounds at the 
homeless shelter, women's emergency shelter," he said. "These are all 
positive experiences."

Hammond said he sees several challenges with the job.

"Methamphetamine use is a huge problem nationwide. And Napa is no 
stranger to the problem. The drug is so cheap and easy to make. I 
believe we need to expand the county's drug task force. Drug programs 
are important, but there is always room for improvement. We need to 
have greater penalties for the people who manufacture and sell the 
drug," he said. "We also have to start educating the children about 
the dangers of drugs at a young age."

Hammond said domestic violence is another big menace in the county.

"We need to educate the public about domestic violence and the 
effects it has on the victims and their families. I think we need to 
work with the migrant population, who do not understand the laws," he said.

Hammond said he believes the district attorney should be approachable 
by the public and his staff.

"I truly would have an open-door policy. I would welcome ideas and 
suggestions from the staff," he said.

Hammond attended Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa, 
graduating in May 1996. He passed the bar the same year. From there 
he accepted a temporary position with the Napa County Distinct 
Attorney's office family support division.

He was then hired by the Lake County District Attorney's Office in 
May 1997. There he prosecuted drug, DUI, domestic violence, child 
sexual abuse, and grand theft cases.

In 1998, Hammond returned to Napa County to work as a prosecutor for 
the family support division.

"Jeff did a great job for us. He handled a huge caseload and did it 
very well. He was creative in tracking down assets to get child 
support payments from the sale of property and homes," said Natasha 
Merkuloff Nichols, director of child support services.

Hammond said he considers himself a victim's advocate.

"Whatever the loss, be it physical or emotional, a guilty verdict can 
never make up for that loss. When I prosecute a case, I always have 
the victim on my mind, especially (in cases involving) domestic 
violence or sexual abuse," he said. "I would like to see more 
restitution and more free counseling for victims."

Hammond is on the board of Starlight Kiwanis of Napa and has 
volunteered as a mock trial attorney coach for Vintage High School. 
He is also a Napa County Peer Court mentor and has been a 
commissioner for Community Development Block Grant Citizens 
Committee. He is a member of the Napa County Peace Officers 
Association, serving as president in 2004.

Hammond also served as union steward for the Napa Association of 
Public Employees, and he currently serves as vice president for the 
Napa County Women Lawyers Association.

Hammond was born in San Jose and raised in the Bay Area. He attended 
Westmont College in Santa Barbara, earning a bachelor's degree in 
psychology in 1974.

In 1978, he and his then-wife opened, owned and operated copy centers 
in Chico and Santa Rosa until he switched gears to pursue a career in 
law. He has three sons.
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MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman