By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer
Local prosecutor Paris Coleman, who recently announced that he intends to run for the Sacramento County’s District Attorney position, says he wants to use the position to improve the relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the African American community.
He says he is one of eight, maybe nine, African American district attorneys working in the Sacramento County D.A.’s office — a small percentage as there are 170 prosecutors handling caseloads in Sacramento County.
Coleman said he would like to increase the number of Black prosecutors. But at the present time, he is looking at a bigger picture, citing a “big disconnect” between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect throughout the counties in California.
Coleman wants to reverse that notion with the expectation of saving lives and people’s liberties. He also said that he understands that “certain communities do not appreciate law enforcement and certain law enforcement entities do not appreciate or understand people in the community.”
“It’s time that prosecution gets with a lot of things that are going on,” he told The OBSERVER.
“I think that we’ve tried to keep up. The system is not broken. I believe that it works. But there is a significant disconnect between some of our communities, particularly, communities of color, and law enforcement. That cannot be allowed to continue,” Coleman added.
After current Sacramento County D.A. Anne Marie Schubert, a former member of the Republican party, announced that she would run for the state’s Attorney General position last week, she endorsed Coleman to be her replacement to the county’s office.
Coleman has been a county deputy district attorney for almost seven years. Should he win, he would become the first African American ever elected to the county-wide office. He has no prior political experience.
“When I was approached I realized this was an opportunity,” Coleman said. “I felt that I was the person who could hopefully do things that needed to be done in a way that would be consistent with what I believe needs to happen in prosecutions to help our communities.”
Coleman’s undergraduate work was completed at Sacramento State University where he received a degree in business administration, management, and operations.
He then went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from UC Davis School Law in the early 1990s. With eyes on becoming an attorney, Coleman ran into a challenge: passing the California Bar Exam. He admits, he took the exam three times before becoming a licensed attorney.
Administered by the State Bar of California, the examination is given twice each year, over two days. It consists of a series of written questions, multiple-choice questions, and a performance test.
Approximately 16,000 people take the bar exam each year. Slightly half of the lawyers fail it. Coleman nearly passed the test on his first try and the second attempt just about equaled the first exam. With a job waiting on him at the Alameda County’s D.A.’s office, Coleman nailed it on the third effort. He served as a deputy prosecutor in Alameda County from 1994 to 2007. While in that position, he managed to get his Doctor of Law degree from UC Davis in 2002.
Coleman learned something significant about the examinations that he still carries to this day — he was overly confident that he would pass it the first time. It’s also something he will use consistently during his campaign run.
“Here’s one thing about the state bar examination … you’re all in or you’re not all in. But you need to be all in,” Coleman told The OBSERVER about dedicating himself to something he wants to accomplish.
“I was really close to passing, working full time, and didn’t take any time off from work. That was a mistake. So I stopped working, studied completely for the bar, and the third time was a charm,” he added.
Coleman expects to have more success with this next endeavor.
He has worked at both tables in the courtroom, on the prosecution side and the defense chair. He operated the Law Office of Paris Coleman from 2007 to 2015 before joining the Sacramento County D.A.’s office.
Mervin Brookins, the co-founder of Brother 2 Brother, a mentorship program based in Del Paso Heights, learned that Schubert was endorsing Coleman at an awards ceremony recently, where Brookins received the Beacon of Light honor for community service.
“If you look at the way (Schubert) ran her office for all those years, for her to nominate a Black brother (a) Democrat, that means a lot and it’s nothing but straight up and down (respect).”
A long campaign trail is ahead for Coleman, but he insists that he is all in.