DA Clegg to focus on getting help for opioid addicts, clearing backlog of cases

Dave Clegg (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Ulster County District Attorney-elect Dave Clegg is winding down his private practice and meeting with staff at the DA’s Office in anticipation of taking over later this month. (We spoke with him earlier this week. On Thursday, opponent Michael Kavanagh conceded.)

Among his first tasks, Clegg said, will be dealing with a backlog of felony cases and reorganizing the office in line with his campaign promise to combat Ulster County’s opioid epidemic through greater use of drug courts and other programs to divert addicts into treatment.

“Law enforcement is on the front line of the opioid epidemic,” said the 66-year-old trial attorney. “So we are going to be part of the solution.”

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Clegg said he’d already spoken with former district attorney Holley Carnright, who left office on December 31, as well as the office’s 15 full-time assistant district attorneys to coordinate the transition.

Clegg attributed the backlog of felony cases to attorneys’ and former county court judge Don Williams’ reluctance to reach plea agreements or go to trial pending the installation of a new DA and new County Court Judge Bryan Rounds.

“There are a number of cases ready for resolution,” said Clegg. “Either by plea or by trial.”

Clegg, the first Democrat elected to the Ulster County DA’s office since 1850, said he also has plans to reorganize the office. He declined to discuss personnel changes, including the appointment of a new chief assistant to replace Kavanagh. But Clegg said he has a number of initiatives in mind, including closer coordination between his office and local addiction treatment providers, an increased use of drug court and other diversion programs for nonviolent offenders and plans to seek grant funding for new programs to combat domestic violence. Clegg added that his early responsibilities will also include establishing new protocols to coordinate his office’s efforts with Rounds’ schedule and any new dictates from the incoming county court judge.

Clegg’s ascension to DA coincides with new state laws that mandate prosecutors turn over more evidence earlier in the legal process than previously required. Those rules are expected to present a challenge for district attorneys statewide as they race to get forensic evidence back from overtaxed crime labs in time to comply with the new rules.