Starting in February, the Harris County District Attorney's Office will have a former judge overseeing the ethics of more than 700 prosecutors and investigators, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Wednesday.
Ogg has named former Harris County State District Judge David Mendoza to her newly created Office of Professional Integrity, where he will oversee the DA's training section and advise on various ethical issues prosecutors routinely face. He will also sit at the table to help Ogg's new administration revise policies and procedures.
"There are few jobs where judgment is more important than it is as a prosecutor,” Ogg said in a statement. “Judge Mendoza is a respected member of the local bar, having served in multiple roles in our justice system. His experience will be a tremendous asset to our office, ensuring that our lawyers and staff always have access to expertise on issues of ethics.”
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Throughout her campaign and at her inauguration ceremony, Ogg repeatedly promised that integrity would be the hallmark of her administration, saying she would root out win-at-all-costs mind-sets and focus on evidence-based justice. At the ceremony, she specifically noted this means prosecutors will be expected to fully abide by the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense — a remark for which she was interrupted with applause.
Seeing that prosecutors abide by the act and use proper discretion during the discovery phase of trials will be one of Mendoza's top responsibilities, according to Ogg.
“I’m honored to be part of a team to assist district attorney’s office employees in performing their duties at the highest professional level,” Mendoza said, adding: "I’ve come full circle from when I started as a young foot soldier in my quest to improve Harris County’s criminal justice system."
Mendoza began his career as an assistant district attorney in Harris County in 1979. He also served as a criminal defense attorney for 17 years, then finished out the previous 16 years as a judge — eight as a county judge and eight as a state district judge. He retired from the bench in December.