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Guest Opinion | Bill Paparian: Conflict of Interest in Diversion Program Hurts County and Defendants Alike

Published on Thursday, January 20, 2022 | 11:37 am
 

Ancient wisdom holds up for a reason. It often represents a universal truth.

One piece of old advice makes plain this truth: No man can serve two masters.

And yet, Cyn Yamashiro is doing just that. And, it is an egregious conflict of interest.

On one hand he is the director of Indigent Defense Services for the Los Angeles County Bar Association. On the other, Mr. Yamashiro serves on the County’s Probation Oversight Commission.

Two masters.

The Bar Association has a contract with the County to provide defense services for those who can’t afford it — a constitutionally guaranteed right.

The Probation Oversight Commission pushes for juvenile defendants to be shuttled into diversion — a program designed to keep them out of court and out of jail. The more criminal defendants that are diverted, the less work there is for Bar Association attorneys to defend them. And, on the other hand the less cases are diverted means there will be more prosecutions and that benefits the Bar Association, because there will be more cases to dole out to members of the panel and would justify a more lucrative contract for the panel in the future.

In his role on the probation commission, either way Mr. Yamashiro votes — either for, or against diversion — creates a conflict.

If he votes for diversion, he hurts the appointed attorneys and the Los Angeles County Bar Association. If Mr. Yamashiro votes against diversion, that benefits the Bar Association, but it might not be in the best interest of the community.

The criminal defense attorneys Mr. Yamashiro directs frequently defend clients who are charged with the Probation Department with violations of their probation in contested hearings in courts throughout Los Angeles County. Mr. Yamashiro is hopelessly and terminally conflicted in both positions. If he doesn’t resign from both positions immediately, he should be removed.

No one can (or should) serve two masters.

William M. Paparian, the former Mayor of Pasadena, is a criminal justice attorney in Los Angeles County.

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