DA Fills Position Recommended by Panel in Wake of Snitch Scandal

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has promoted one of his top subordinates, Jim Tanizaki, to be his second-in-command based on the recommendations of an independent panel of attorneys in the wake of the jailhouse snitch scandal.

The promotion comes after more than two years of court disclosures revealing misconduct and the illegal use of informants by DA prosecutors and Sheriff’s deputies in county jails, in 2015 Rackauckas called for a committee of five lawyers and a private judge to do a sweeping examination of the office’s policy and practices.

The six-month inquiry resulted in a scathing December 2015 report that painted a picture of a disorganized agency lacking proper oversight and leadership, and called for a substantial reorganization of the office.

Among their recommendations, the panel called for reinstating the chief assistant district attorney position to assist Rackauckas in the day-to-day management of the office as the second-in-command.

Tanizaki and fellow Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Lubinski also drew scrutiny in 2015 when Voice of OC reported that Tanizaki’s son and Lubinski’s daughter were hired by the DA’s office that September.

Stephen  Tanizaki and Katherine Lubinski, who both graduated from the Chapman University Fowler School of Law in 2014, were among a handful of newly minted lawyers hired by the agency in September 2015. The office often draws hundreds of applications for entry-level attorney jobs within two or three days of opening the application period.

Both Jim Tanizaki and Michael Lubinski denied any involvement in the hiring of their children.

Tanizaki, who began working at the DA’s office in 1985 under District Attorney Cecil Hicks. He worked in the special assignments unit, homicide and oversaw branch court operations before he was promoted to senior assistant district attorney in 2002, according to the news release announcing his promotion In that role, Tanizaki oversaw violent crimes and vertical prosecutions.

He is also a member of the DA’s special circumstances committee, which determines whether defendants in cases eligible for the death penalty should face capital punishment, and has taught at the Whittier College of Law as an adjunct professor since 1999.

“I continue to be amazed at all the wonderful men and women of the OCDA who dedicate their considerable talents and energies to fulfill the mission of the Office,” Tanizaki said in an agency press release. “We will continue to strive together in pursuing justice and becoming even more effective as a prosecutorial agency.”

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.