Diversity in the DA's Office
DDA Janice De Leon Cruz
1. Why did you choose a career as a prosecutor?
My family's home was burglarized twice while I was growing up in Southeast San Diego County. After the second burglary, my parents were forced to put wrought iron bars on the windows and doors, just like the other homes in the neighborhood. As a result of these experiences, I joined the San Diego District Attorney's Office to make sure that victims of crime-regardless of their background-are not forgotten. Although victims may come from diverse socio-economic areas and may have markedly different life experiences, they are all still victims who deserve equal protection and justice.
2. Why would an attorney of color choose a career as a prosecutor?
The duty of a prosecutor is to protect the public and enforce the law, while abiding by the highest of ethical standards. Crime victims come from all parts of our community, varying in age, gender, ethnicity, and a host of other factors. A person should apply to become a prosecutor with the San Diego District Attorney's Office if they are dedicated to serving the diverse population we have here in San Diego County.
3. Why is it significant to communities to have prosecutors who are from minority groups?
Because the District Attorney's Office represents the People, it must maintain the public's confidence in order to properly do its job. The community is assured that all its members have not been forgotten when there are effective prosecutors from diverse backgrounds working hard to seek justice for everyone. This may even include prosecutors from diverse backgrounds who speak the same language as our victims. Diversity within a prosecutorial agency is also important because prosecutors can provide insight into why a witness may be reluctant to come forward or how a case may be received by different members of the jury. A prosecutor cannot represent the People unless he or she understands the People. It is significant then, to the Office and the community, to have effective prosecutors who not only know the law, but who understand, respect, and represent all members of the community.
4. What advice would you give minority students who aspire to become prosecutors?
Work hard, come up with a plan to achieve your goals, and execute your plan. If you suffer setbacks or someone tells you, "No, you can't," don't give up-find another way. A college adviser once told me that I wasn't going to graduate from college, much less law school. Had I listened to this person, I wouldn't be a prosecutor today. Finally, don't let financial concerns stand in the way of fulfilling your dreams. Many students don't pursue higher education because their families have marginal incomes. As a student, you will likely have to borrow thousands of dollars to finance your education. However, keep in mind you are your best investment and you are more than worth the cost of law school. It's not always easy, but the hard work you invest today will pay off in the future.