Skip to Content

Former Santa Barbara County District Attorney joins Your News Channel to discuss the latest Supreme Court rulings and Presidential race

Joyce E. Dudley

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Following a monumental Supreme Court decision in Trump v. United States, the first Presidential Debate of the 2024 election cycle on Thursday of the same week, and increasing calls for President Biden to leave the race by members of his party last week, Your News Channel sat down with former Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley to get her perspective on the race for the Oval Office, the impact of the Supreme Court's latest ruling, as well as her professional relationship with one member of the current Democratic Presidential ticket for 2024.

Your News Channel invited Joyce Dudley, former District Attorney for Santa Barbara County, to speak with us as a long-time public servant, expert on the impact of our legal system, and someone who worked with Vice President Kamala Harris as a fellow District Attorney.

The transcript below from the interview on Wednesday, June 3 has been edited for brevity and clarity purposes.

Your News Channel (NC): Could you introduce yourself for context purposes?

Dudley: I was with the District Attorney's Office for 32 and a half years, I was a District Attorney for 12 and a half years, and I retired about six months ago and am presently retired, but still working for the Governor [of California] on a hearing board in Sacramento.

NC: We wanted to reach out to you about the President's debate performance last week and calls this week for somebody to replace him. A top choice would be Vice President Kamala Harris who you knew before her entrance into national politics.

Dudley: Well, first let me tell you a little about how I know Kamala. Kamala was the District Attorney of San Francisco when I was the District Attorney of Santa Barbara. And at that time, we were [some of the few] female District Attorneys in the state. There are 58 counties, so there were 50 male District Attorneys and eight female.

We used to get together for dinners and conferences. And then when she became the Attorney General [of California], we worked on a very big case together, the oil spill case up in Gaviota. Then the Senate, I went in, got to hear some Senate hearings. She walked me into the Senate in Washington. And then she was running for President. She called me up and asked if I'd be willing to talk to her consultant on environmental sciences...[as Harris was] forming her environmental policy.

So we've been friends during all of those different stages.

NC: Well, you are the exact person to get a better idea of who Kamala Harris is outside of all of those impressive titles of former [California] Attorney General, former Senator of California, and current Vice President of the United States. Recently, after the debate performance, the case has been made publicly that there should be a change at the top of the ticket.

NC: I wanted to ask specifically if you knew about the access to the existing war chest for the Biden-Harris campaign. From what I've heard, is it correct that it would require one of the people currently on the ticket to remain in order to access all of those already-gathered donations? I believe its about $100 million.

Dudley: I think I heard it was $91 million and my understanding is similar to yours. What I know for sure is that she can become the delegate because her name is on the ticket and that there really isn't anybody else who can be the person to access those funds.

NC: The recent context of Monday's Supreme Court ruling [Trump v. United States] is that there is a new evaluation of some forms of absolute immunity for Presidents regarding criminal liability. This sounds like the exact time when the nation might turn to an attorney, and it seems like lawyers, as opposed to lawmakers, are playing a more prominent role in the future of our republic.

Dudley: On a personal level, I found the ruling [in Trump v. United States] very disheartening. I would say very close to shocking... I had a feeling it was going to give some additional power to the Presidency. The extent of that power, as far as I understand the ruling, is overwhelming. I come from a very strong belief that nobody is above the law. It feels as if that is the core of being an American, that we have a Constitution and we have laws and everyone is going to be treated the same. Whether I was prosecuting somebody in government or a doctor or anybody else, we're all going to be treated the same under the law.

When I read that opinion, it took my breath away because of all the people we expect to follow the rule of law, is the leader of our country and now there is some confusion as to what he can and can't do and whats public and what's private.

NC: That ruling has already impacted the sentencing hearing Donald Trump is waiting for after his conviction in New York.

Dudley: Yes, they have to differentiate between what was officially a correspondence [by the then-President Trump and therefore, subject to the Supreme Court's new immunity protections for Presidents].

NC: The next President is going to have a decision about not only, you know, reforming the Supreme Court potentially, dealing with two Associate Justices are over the age of 70, but a question of the rule of law in the entire country. Do you think this is why Kamala Harris is in the conversation, or is it more that President Biden isn't able to provide the answers people are looking for?

Dudley: I don't think that we'd be having this conversation but for the debate. I think that his debate performance was shocking. And as a result of that shocking debate performance, people are now saying, 'Is he competent to become President of the United States?'

Many people would say in California, 'I don't want to have Trump as President of the United States, but I also want to make sure that I have a thinking person who can articulate concerns and make decisions.'

NC: Do you think that Kamala Harris would make a public statement [ahead of the Democratic National Convention in August] to that effect or would she hold off until President Biden announces his decision?

Dudley: My guess is that she will wait. She's a very loyal person and she has absolutely given her loyalty to the President. And if the President decides that he wants to step back and support her, then I believe that would be an announcement made by the team. And I do believe it would be before the convention.

NC: Congressman Roy Blunt of Texas introduced a House Resolution requesting Kamala Harris invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Joe Biden from the Presidency and yesterday {Jul. 2} , a sitting Democrat in the House stated he believed Biden should end his reelection campaign. Do you expect more members to make such a call on the public record and will that impact Kamala Harris' decision-making?

Dudley: Did you hear [Congresswoman Nancy] Pelosi talk about this?

NC: I did, yes.

Dudley: I think that was a bellwether moment because Pelosi is part of that generation. She is also a highly respected leader and she is expressing concerns. So I think now that she has done that, we might see more people.

{Since this interview on Jul. 3, a second sitting member of the House, Representative Grijalva of Arizona, has also publicly called on President Biden to potentially end his reelection campaign and on Friday, Senator Warner of Virginia was reported to be gathering multiple members to make a similar request of President Biden.}

{Additionally, on Jun. 8, President Biden addressed the concerns in a letter to Congressional Democrats.}

NC: Can you tell us more about Kamala Harris as a person and the kind of role she might take regardless of where she is on the ticket in the fall?

Dudley: Well, first of all, she was an excellent prosecutor and trial lawyer. She was very good at that. And I think she's extremely intelligent and she can articulate a point and she can explain somethings and she has a warmth about her.

She's a very private person, but I got to know her and I got to know her mother a little bit at the same time my former husband was diagnosed with cancer. Somehow word got up to Sacramento and she just picked up the phone and called me. 'How are you? How are you doing?' So in terms of her relationship with me, I've always felt there was warmth and there was respect. When we worked on an issue together, she listened as much as she spoke.

I think she's in a very good position at this point in her life to take on the Presidency. I probably wouldn't have said that four years ago even though I was certainly cheering for her as a friend. But I think she's learned a lot over the last four years and she'll be able to take that wisdom and run with it. Should President Biden step down, I think she'd be an excellent President.

NC: You are someone who dedicated your life to public service. Recently, and especially in light of this change in the criminal liability of Presidents going forward, attitudes about how public servants should conduct themselves has changed. Do you think this version of immunity will be extended to more public officials or expand even beyond its current state for Presidents?

Dudley: I believe it's really going to be up to the voters. You have to vote for the right person to be President. What we know about President Trump is that he's now a felon and we know that there are several other cases pending. And we've heard the interview and we've heard a million other things. He is showing you exactly who he is. He has shown you how he will respond to being given, for lack of a better term, a longer leash.

I think you also have got to see President Biden when his son was being prosecuted. Saying, 'No, I won't pardon him. I won't get involved. He's my son and I love him, but no one is above the law.' So I think it's more important than ever that we elect the right President. And I think throughout history, Presidents are always as good as the team that surrounds them.

I think that that if President Biden should step down, that Kamala Harris will have an excellent team in place and I have faith in them. Have I been heartbroken lately by the justice system? Yes. When I heard that President Trump was found guilty, I said, 'Great, no one is above the law.' With Hunter Biden [convicted of three felony gun-related charges], 'Great, no one is above the law.'

So I still believe in the jury system. But I lost my confidence in the Supreme Court. And for an attorney and for someone who's been in public practice as long as I have, it's a little heartbreaking because you always hope the Supreme Court would be the wisest court in the land and I no longer feel that way.

Article Topic Follows: California
Joyce Dudley
santa barbara county
Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office
Trump v. United States
U.S. Supreme Court

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Andrew Gillies

Andrew is a Digital Content Producer and Assignment Desk Assistant for News Channel 3-12. For more about Andrew, click here.


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content