Brian Aus 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire


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Brian Aus, candidate for District Attorney, 2014 People's Alliance PAC questionnaire

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Brian Aus 2014 PA-PAC Questionnaire

  1. 1. Durham People’s Alliance Political Action Committee Questionnaire for District Attorney Candidates, 2014 The Durham People’s Alliance Political Action Committee will make an endorsement in the upcoming election for District Attorney. So that we can make the best possible decision, we would like to hear more about you and your candidacy. Please complete the following questionnaire and return it to Tom Miller not later than March 17, 2014. You may submit your completed questionnaire to Tom’s e-mail address,, or you may deliver it to his home at 1110 Virginia Avenue, Durham, NC 27705 before 11:00 a.m. on the morning of the 17th. If you would like to have an electronic copy of this questionnaire, send Tom an e-mail at the address above. Your failure to provide us with responses to the questions below will not disqualify you from consideration for our endorsement, but it may place you at a disadvantage. When completing this questionnaire, please begin your response to each question by repeating the question as it is set out below and underlining or italicizing it to distinguish the question from your answer. If the complete answer to a question is contained in your resume, you may respond to the question by noting “See attached resume.” Please provide us with a copy of your resume. Please make your answers complete, but concise. Your responses will not be treated as confidential. Candidate’s name _Brian Aus___________________________________________ Residence address ___5826 Wilma Drive, Durham, NC 27712____________ Cell-phone Number __(919) 943-2819____ e-mail __brianauslaw@gmail.com__ Concerning You: 1. Where were you born and where did you grow up? When did you make Durham your home? I was born and raised in Lakewood. NJ. My late wife and I made Durham County our home in 1979. 2. Please describe your involvement in civic and professional organizations, noting any offices you may have held and any awards or distinctions you may have earned.
  2. 2. I have served on the Durham County Mental Health Board, the Criminal Justice Partnership, the Durham County Community Penalties Board and NC Grievance Committee for the 14th Judicial District. I have received a Certificate of Appreciation for my work with the Mental Health Board from the Durham County Board of Commissioners. I am peer-rated by Martindale-Hubbell as an “AV/Preeminent Attorney.” 3. Please describe how your religious and philosophical beliefs may affect your policies and decision-making if you are elected District Attorney. I will attempt to not let my religious or philosophical beliefs affect my decision-making as DA. The safety of the public and Due Process of law will be of paramount importance to my decision-making. 4. Please describe your employment history and, for employment in the public or private practice of law, describe your client base and the subject areas of your practice. I have practiced law from 1985 to date. I have concentrated my practice in criminal defense at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal courts. I was one of the original Assistant Public Defenders for Durham County. I primarily represent poor people, but also have represented attorneys and law enforcement officers. I also serve as a civil arbitrator for the 14th Judicial District. Prior to becoming an attorney, I was Principal Investigator administering several US Environmental Protection Agency contracts. I also co-founded the Atlantic Coast Exchange, one of the first industrial waste exchanges in North America. 5. Have you ever been publicly or privately disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar or any other professional or occupational licensing authority in North Carolina or any other state? “Disciplined” should be read to include reprimands, censures, and warnings in addition to license suspension, surrender, revocation, and disbarment. Is the State Bar or any governmental authority considering a complaint against you at the present time? Have you ever been found in contempt of court? For each “yes” answer, please provide us with a full description of the action taken, when it was taken, the authority in question, and a statement of the facts and events giving rise to the action or complaint against you. “No” to all parts of this question. 6. Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense (other than a minor traffic offense)? Is there a criminal charge currently pending against you? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, please identify the offense, the tribunal, and the sentence or penalty imposed. Please also describe the circumstances giving rise to the charge and/or conviction. No
  3. 3. 7. Is there any unsatisfied judgment pending against you? If the answer to this question is yes, please identify the party or parties with a judgment against you, the tribunal, the amount of the judgment, and the circumstances giving rise to the judgment. Are you currently a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit? If the answer to this question is yes, please identify the adverse parties and the tribunal where the matter is pending. Please describe the nature of the claim or claims in the suit and the circumstances giving rise to the claim. I am not ware of any unsatisfied judgments against me. I do, however, owe federal income taxes that accrued while my wife struggled with and died from kidney cancer. 8. For whom did you vote for president in 2008 and 2012? Did you vote for or against Amendment One? I voted for President Obama in both elections. I also voted against Amendment One. Concerning the District Attorney’s Office: 9. Please describe your experience in prosecuting and/or defending felony cases. Your answer should include the number of such cases you have handled and should identify the number of cases where you were primarily responsible for the prosecution or defense (i.e., “first chair”). Your answer should also distinguish cases tried from cases resolved by means other than trial. You may use approximate numbers. I have defended over 500 felony cases in my 29 years as a lawyer. I can only estimate that I have tried over 100 felony cases in state and federal court. I have been first chair in three capital murder cases. 10. What is your experience managing a large staff of professional and non-professional employees? I have a combined Masters of Science in Public Health degree in environmental sciences, environmental engineering and public administration. During the Carter Administration, I was responsible for overseeing federal projects that involved between 6 to 10 people. 11. As District Attorney, what policy would you support for charging under the habitual felony statute? Would you take into account the nature of the triggering offenses and the proportionality of the possible punishment upon conviction? I do not feel that the Habitual Felon laws should be used against drug addicts for simply possessing drugs. I do, however, believe that felonious breaking and/or entering of dwellings, sales of drugs to children and crimes of violence should trigger the application of habitual offender laws.
  4. 4. 12. Do you personally support the death penalty? Do you support its abolition or would you modify its application in any way? What is the societal value of keeping the death penalty? If you support the abolition of the death penalty, would you be willing to encourage the Conference of District Attorneys to take that position as well? As District Attorney, what criteria would you use in determining when you would seek to impose the death penalty upon a criminal defendant? If you are District Attorney, who in your office will make decisions concerning the death penalty? I am personally against the death penalty on moral and practical grounds. As a Catholic, I was raised to oppose the death penalty. As a practicing criminal defense attorney for 29 years, I have concluded that the death penalty does not deter murder and is extremely expensive to prosecute. That being said, I must however, uphold the law of this state and must let the citizen-jurors of Durham County decide whether the death penalty is to be applied in certain cases. Such cases would include the murder of children, murder by torture and murder of law enforcement officers. Given that Life Without Parole is now available, and the limited financial resources of the District Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of capital offenses, I do no expect that most first degree murder cases will be capitally tried. After consultation with my staff of experienced homicide prosecutors, I will decide whether to capitally try a first degree murder case. I will be willing to encourage the Conference of District Attorneys to consider pushing for abolishment of the death penalty by the General Assembly, but will continue to enforce the laws until changed by the General Assembly. 13. Litigation under the former Racial Justice Act uncovered systematic racial discrimination in jury selection by prosecutors throughout North Carolina. What hiring practices, training or other measures will you implement to address this problem? If you are elected District Attorney, would you be willing to advocate publicly and in the conference of District Attorneys about the need to address this problem to insure that no defendant is put to death when evidence of racial bias as contemplated under the Racial Justice Act is present in the case? As a criminal defense lawyer, I am well-aware that the race, sex, sexual preference and culture of victims, defendants and potential jurors can affect the outcome of a trial. There is no value to a conviction that is acquired wrongfully. As District Attorney, I will strive to assure that bias does not influence a verdict. I will not tolerate discrimination of any manner by my staff. They will be trained to abstain from practices that pander to discrimination, will be monitored by me and severely disciplined for violation of my anti-discrimination policies. I will certainly keep these concerns alive with the Conference of District Attorneys. 14. As District Attorney, would you continue to support the following programs: the Drug Treatment Court, the Criminal Justice Resource Center, STAR, the Mental Health Treatment Court, the Veterans’ Court, the misdemeanor diversion program for 16- and 17- year-olds, and the newly established pretrial services program? If you have reservations about any of these programs please explain them.
  5. 5. I support all of these programs. In fact, for 24 years I was and continue to be a volunteer instructor for the STARR program. I am a former Durham County Mental Health Board Member and Truancy Court Judge for Northern High School. 15. As District Attorney, what policies would you implement to address issues involving youthful offenders? Would you support legislation to raise the age for juvenile offenders? We are only one a few states that prosecute 16 and 17-year olds as adults for non- violent crimes. This only leads to hopelessness, recidivism and violence. I firmly believe that we can save these children by employing diversionary programs, in- school suspensions, community service, the Becoming A Man [BAM] program and Rebound. I believe that the Durham Public School system should re-examine its out- of-school suspension policies as they only reward poorly-behaving children with time off from school. I support legislation to raise the age for adult prosecutions of non- violent offenders to 18. 16. What role do you think district attorneys should play in identifying and prosecuting criminal violations of state environmental laws? What difficulties attend such prosecutions? What can be done to overcome them? The DA’s Office must ensure that environmental laws are enforced; our public health demands it. The problem with prosecution of such cases, however, is that it often is difficult to prove who perpetrated the environmental crime. It will require communication and coordination with local, state and federal agencies to identify and successfully prosecute these offenders. 17. As District Attorney, what measures do you support for making our courts more accessible to non-English speaking victims, defendants, and witnesses? Given that we have at least four courts operating at any given time, we need to have more than one Spanish interpreter available. The delays caused by having to wait for an interpreter are one cause of inefficiency of the court system. I will attempt to obtain funding to hire additional interpreters. 18. As District Attorney, how would you make district court more efficient? I intend to completely reorganize the office. I will have section chiefs who are responsible for the prosecution of specific types of crimes, e.g., homicides, sex- offenses, etc. Along with me, these chiefs will be on-call 24/7 for law enforcement to consult with. We will be on the scene of major crime scenes to assess evidence when it is fresh. This will assist the District Court Judges with making bond determinations at defendant’s first appearances in the jail court. In less-serious felony offenses, having section chiefs will avoid the often months-long delays in determining which cases should be disposed of as misdemeanors. In more serious cases defense
  6. 6. attorneys will have a “go-to” prosecutor rather waiting weeks or perhaps months for a particular prosecutor to be assigned to the case. I also intend to implement a policy where District Court plea negotiations will begin at 8:30 a.m. and that defense attorneys will not have to waste valuable court time by having to sit in court for calendar-call before even attempting to dispose of their cases. I also intend to implement a uniform policy for first appearances in the jail court for pretrial release and plea offers for minor offenses. 19. What in your past might lead the public to question their trust in the integrity of the District Attorney’s office or in you personally? The public might perceive that I will not vigorously enforce the law because I have represented criminal defendants for 29 years. I am first and foremost a citizen of Durham—my wife and I picked Durham as our home and not for the paycheck. Secondly, I am an officer of the court, sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this state. I do not approve of drunk drivers killing people and getting probation with no jail time. I do not approve of plea-bargaining first degree murders to time- served in jail simply to up the disposition statistics. I decided to run for this Office because I believe I can restore the public’s trust in our criminal justice system. Justice will be equal for all, not just a select few. 20. What are the shortcomings of law enforcement in Durham? What can be done to correct them? Law enforcement has an incredibly difficult and often dangerous job to do. I respect their dedication in protecting our citizenry. Like every large organization, there can be a few bad apples that hurt the reputation of law enforcement. Often the problem stems from overzealousness rather than maliciousness. As the chief law enforcement officer for Durham County, these concerns will be addressed and corrected through my regular, personal contact with the Police Chief, Sheriff, Crime Cabinet, Mayor, County Commissioners, PACS and other concerned citizen groups. I also recognize that I have an obligation be to keep the public informed, when it is possible, of the progress of certain investigations. 21. Do we incarcerate too many people in North Carolina? Do we incarcerate the right people? Please explain your answer. What sentencing policy changes would you support in your role as District Attorney? Would you advocate for these policy changes publicly and in the Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, and the North Carolina judges conferences? I believe we incarcerate too many people for non-violent offenses under the habitual offender laws, specifically drug addicts. This is expensive, does not solve the addict’s problem and only adds misery to their loved ones. I believe we do not incarcerate enough violent offenders, including offenders who repeatedly violate the sanctity of our homes. It appears to me that many violent offenses that warrant lengthy sentences
  7. 7. are plea-bargained simply for the sake of expediency. I intend to vigorously prosecute violent offenders and seek their removal from our society. I intent to send a message to the criminals of this County that the “slap-on-the-wrist” days are over. On the other hand, I will do every thing in my power to keep children who commit non-violent offenses from being involved with the criminal justice system. 22. As District Attorney, how would you make the prosecutors in your office more accessible to defendants and defense attorneys? The office will reorganized with section chiefs, which will allow defense attorneys quicker and better access regarding their cases. As to individual defendants, I will not permit any contact if they are represented by counsel. If not represented, they will be encouraged to obtain a lawyer and warned that anything they say can be used against them. If a defendant still wishes to represent themselves, we will afford that person the same plea offers as a high-paid lawyer would obtain. All staff will be thoroughly trained to treat all members of the public, including defendants, with respect. 23. As District Attorney, what policy or organizational changes would you make that have not otherwise been anticipated by the questions in this questionnaire? I am extremely concerned that the current staff in the DA’s Office is not properly trained in trial and appellate practice. I have seen too many “green ADAs” thrown in the deep end of the pool against highly experienced defense lawyers and lose cases that should not be lost. This is justice denied. I therefore intend to have all attorneys fully trained and capable of trying felony cases before a jury. This will include weekend training sessions. Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response to our questionnaire. THE DURHAM PEOPLE’S ALLIANCE POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE
  8. 8. BRIAN AUS FOR DISTRICT ATTORNEY PO Box 1345, Durham, NC 27702 Personal Information Date of Birth: August 17, 1954 Widower after 36 years of marriage to Debbie Son Erik is a performing artist and product of the Durham Public School System Awards Peer-rated “Preeminent/AV”® Lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell Certificate of Appreciation from the Durham Board of County Commissioners, April 22, 1993. Employment 1985 to date-Attorney at Law concentrating in trial and appellate practice in North Carolina and Federal Courts. 1992 to date-Civil Arbitrator for the 14th Judicial District. 1993 to date-Criminal Justice Act Panel Attorney for the US courts in the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina. Admitted to the United States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. 1979 to 1982-Environmental Scientist, Principal Investigator/Project Manager for Pacific Environmental Services, Inc., Durham, NC—Contractor to US Environmental Protection Agency for development of New Source Performance Standards to implement the Clean Air Act and to determine compliance by state environmental protection agencies with federal pollution control laws. Co-founder of the Atlantic Coast Exchange for recycling of industrial wastes. Education 1977-B.A. Biological Sciences, Rutgers College, New Brunswick, NJ 1979-M.S.P.H. Environmental Sciences and Engineering, UNC-Chapel Hill 1985-J.D., UNC-Chapel Hill Activities Volunteer Instructor for the S.T.A.R.R. Program (substance abuse treatment/life skills), Durham County Detention Center Former two-term member of the North Carolina State Bar Grievance Committee for the 14th Judicial District Former board member of the Durham County Criminal Justice Partnership Former board member of the Durham County Area Mental Health Board Former board member of Durham County Sentencing Services Former Truancy Court Judge for Northern High School, Durham, NC