Orange County DA retaliated against subordinate, new claim alleges
Embattled Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has another scandal on his hands.
A veteran prosecutor, Karen Schatzle, has filed a claim against Rackauckas’ office after the district attorney allegedly retaliated against her when she chose to unsuccessfully run against an incumbent superior court judge. Schatzle is seeking $5 million in damages.
Schatzle claims she was ordered not to run against Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner in 2016 because Rackauckas had an “unwritten policy” discouraging his prosecutors from running against incumbent judges. Rackauckas ended up endorsing Steiner in that election over his own subordinate.
Schatzle’s claim states that “She was specifically told that DA Rackauckas did not want her to run for election against incumbent Judge Steiner, and, further, that her ‘career’ as a prosecutor would be damaged if she chose to run for judicial office against him.”
Steiner had been censured by the Commission on Judicial Performance for having sex with two different women in his chambers, asking prosecutors to give one of the women a job, and failing to recuse himself from a case involving a personal friend.
But that scandal wasn’t enough for Schatzle to prevail; she lost the election by almost 13 points. At one point during the race, Schatzle remarked that her decision to run was “career suicide.”
Schatzle claims Rackauckas punished her by transferring her to the office furthest away from her home, giving her assignments that she was overqualified for, denying her multiple chances at promotions, and denying her requests for transfers.
Rackauckas released a statement in response, saying that Schatzle has the same job and responsibilities she had before running against Steiner.
“Since 2015, (Schatzle’s) work assignment has been `team leader’ in Branch Court Operations,” Rackauckas said. “During this time, she has maintained the same job title, same salary schedule and same job duties.”
As In Justice Today has previously reported, Rackauckas has drawn a challenger for his 2018 reelection bid in the wake of numerous scandals.
He recently declined to charge a police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager, despite the fact that it was the second time that the officer fatally shot an unarmed man.
Rackauckas generated national attention after a judge ordered his office removed from the death penalty prosecution of Scott Dekraai because of his office’s failure to turn over evidence. Earlier this month, the same judge said Dekraai could not be sentenced to death because of the actions of Rackauckas and his office.
Several investigators in his office also claim that the district attorney interfered in multiple investigations and engaged in cover ups when law enforcement broke the law. A January 2016, a special committee that Rackauckas himself set up concluded that there was a “failure of leadership” within his office.