Questionnaire: Jim Plowman, Commonwealth's Attorney

Questionnaire: Jim Plowman, Commonwealth's Attorney

Office Sought: Commonwealth's Attorney

Party Affiliation: Republican

Prev. Office Held: Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney (Aug. 1998 - Dec. 2001)

Occupation: Attorney

Current Employment: Allstate Insurance Company, Staff Counsel's Office

3141 Fairview Park Drive, Suite 175

Falls Church, VA 22042

Previous Employment: Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, Fairfax County

4110 Chain Bridge Road, Room 123

Fairfax, VA 22030

Education: The George Washington Univ., National Law Center, J.D., 1996

Virginia Tech, B.A. Economics, 1989

Community Ties: I have lived in Northern Virginia my entire life

Endorsements: Fraternal Order of Police

(partial list) Loudoun County Law Enforcement Coalition Washington Metro Airport Police Association

Fairfax Coalition of Police

Attorney General of Virginia, Jerry Kilgore

Congressman Frank Wolf

U.S. Senator George Allen

U.S. Senator John Warner

State Senator Bill Mims

Delegate Joe May

Hon. Roger Zurn, Loudoun County Treasurer

Hon. Gary Clemens, Clerk of the Circuit Court

1. What is your top public service accomplishment?

I am proud to have served for over three years as an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney in Fairfax County. During that time, I tried approximately 40 jury trials and over 1000 bench trials. Every day I was charged with handling cases, listening to victims and witnesses, and working with police and detectives to hold criminal defendants accountable. There were too many cases to count where you felt that you made a difference in people's lives by punishing the guilty and making our communities and schools safer for everyone.

2. What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you take to resolve them?

The top problems are increasing gang activity, lack of accountability for criminals, and lack of communication, cooperative efforts, and trusting relationships with law enforcement. The current office has taken an approach of resolving cases at any expense to secure a conviction. This does not create a criminal deterrent, but rather sends the exact wrong message to lawbreakers if there is no accountability to ones crime. I have already begun building relationships with the law enforcement body by opening meaningful dialogue and communication. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and every law enforcement agency within Loudoun County has endorsed my candidacy.

3. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

I will bring to this office the support of the entire law enforcement body in Loudoun County. Currently, the rift that exists between these two offices is compromising public safety efforts. I bring the experience of having prosecuted countless criminal trials ranging from low level misdemeanors, to homicide, robbery, rape, drug distribution and gang-related offenses. I have done the job of the people that I will manage. For over three years, I performed the numerous tasks of an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, prosecuting in the largest jurisdiction in Virginia, under the guidance of the Commonwealth's most senior ranking prosecutor, Bob Horan.

4. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent?

I am the unanimously nominated Republican Candidate. My opponent is an Independent. I have the support and endorsement of every State Delegate, State Senator, Congressman and U.S. Senator that represents Loudoun County. I also have the endorsement and support of every major law enforcement association in Loudoun County. My opponent has no support from our local delegation and is not backed by any police organizations. I was hired and trained to prosecute by the most senior prosecutor in Virginia. My opponent has spent the majority of his legal career as a criminal defense attorney.

5. Describe the current operations and staffing of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. Is it sufficient for fulfilling its mission to prosecute criminal charges in the county? If not, what is needed, and at what cost?

The staffing of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office stands at twelve prosecutors and an additional slot is being requested. While the county has grown in extensively over the last several years, the office's current staffing is more than sufficient to accomplish its mission. It appears that the need for additional prosecutors is because the ones that are currently there are not being used efficiently. For example: over the last three years, each prosecutor in Loudoun County has averaged a mere 1.4 felony jury trials per year. By contrast, Fauquier County has averaged 4.2 per prosecutor, and Fairfax has averaged over 7.

6. What are your top three goals for the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office?

First, the office must change its pattern and approach when handling felony cases that has resulted in record numbers of dismissals in Circuit Court, an unexplainable number of plea bargains, and a surprisingly low number of cases going to trial. This approach results in a lack of accountability for criminals, and often times, dangerously lenient plea agreements for the purpose of securing convictions at any expense. Second, the office is not run efficiently (as described in 5 above). Third, the relationship with the law enforcement community that has deteriorated over the last two terms must be restored. Public safety is continually compromised until this occurs. These three goals are not necessarily in order of priority.

7. Describe the role of the Loudoun County Victim Witness Office. What is its current cost? How could it be improved?

The role of the Victim Witness Office is to give support and assistance to those emotionally, financially and physically affected as a result of a crime and guides them through the criminal justice process. It also assists with confidentiality issues, aids in the recovery of restitution and explains the procedures for drafting impact statements. Information and direction is provided when applying to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund.

The law is specific as to who qualifies for this aid. The monetary cost of providing this assistance is minuscule when compared to the service that is provided.

8. How difficult is it to recruit prosecutors? What is the ideal background for such recruits?

It is not difficult to recruit an attorney that wishes to be a prosecutor. In fact, the problem is often that you have far too many applicants for too few positions. This is an often sought after position for young attorneys because there is no other job where you will ever get the kind of trial experience that this position offers. An ideal candidate for a new hire would be one recently out of law school, an effective communicator, open minded, aggressive, not easily intimidated or afraid to make difficult decisions, compassionate, and with passion for justice.

9. Explain the current relationship between the Commonwealth's Attorney and the Sheriff's Office. How are the two agencies supposed to interact? In what ways can it be improved?

The relationship between the Commonwealth's Attorney and the Sheriff is only the tip of the iceberg. The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office does not work well with almost every police agency. There is a sense within the law enforcement community that the Commonwealth's Attorney does not trust police. My experience prosecuting has been effective because of the solid relationships that I had with law enforcement. I have received universal support from every police association within Loudoun County. The two agencies should have a team approach to public safety, working together to achieve the same goal - making Loudoun County a safer place.