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Toward Pluralism: DA Rosen Must Retract His Whistleblower Complaint

We must protect the right to offer constructive criticism of elected officials without fear of retribution.

June 24, 2020


Last week, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen made it clear to his staff that he was prepared to file a whistleblower complaint against Sajid Khan, a deputy alternate public defender in Santa Clara. District Attorney Rosen took exception with a series of blog posts in which Khan criticized DA’s offices around the country for biased practices which abdicate their responsibility to serve the public as arbiters of justice.

District Attorney Rosen erroneously claimed that Khan was hoping to “incite anger and destruction toward us” and had effectively “endangered the safety of everyone” at the office. He hopes that his whistleblower complaint would launch an investigation into Khan. This is a gross overreach on District Attorney Rosen’s part, one which is predicated on the dubious assumption of ill-intent on the part of Khan.

It is clear from Khan’s writings that he speaks from the vantage point of a concerned citizen — not from a place of malice.

In his op-ed, Khan articulated such truisms as “[when] we yell out ‘black lives matter,’ we call for and demand the recognition and valuing of the humanity of black people in this country,” and “don’t forget to make it loud and clear to our DA that black lives matter.” Khan did in fact highlight what he considered gross abrogations of justice on the part of DA’s offices around the country, which included “using illegally collected evidence in their prosecutions,” “prosecuting the very black victims of police violence on trumped-up crimes,” “stripping [black people] of their names, calling them defendants, bodies, criminals, thugs, reducing them to their rap sheets and charges,” and to not living up to the claim that black lives matter.

At no point did District Attorney Rosen contend with Khan’s claims, nor did he address Khan’s clearly well-meaning call for citizens to get engaged in local electoral politics. District Attorney Rosen's inflammatory response was retaliatory. It betrays a District Attorney's office that is more focused on suppressing criticism than engaging with the public they are supposed to serve.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council is committed to ensuring a pluralistic society. We know that a pluralistic society cannot exist where constructive criticism is effectively outlawed. If Sajid Khan, a deputy public defender himself, cannot offer constructive criticism, then where does that leave the broader public?

We call on District Attorney Rosen to issue a public apology to Mr. Khan and retract any formal complaints he may have initiated.

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