Diana Florence is a career prosecutor with a strong vision to redirect the District Attorney’s priorities to focus on crimes committed by the powerful, monied and elite such as wage theft, landlord violations, and crimes of sexual violence. Florence worked for the Manhattan District Attorney for 25 years and eventually became the head of the Construction Fraud Task Force. She elaborates on her experience at the office, saying, “I was an outsider and I used the criminal law in innovative ways to go after what I call crimes of power.” Florence believes in re-directing, but not decreasing, the power of the District Attorney’s office. It is also impossible to discuss her candidacy without addressing her early 2020 resignation subsequent to a failure to disclose Brady evidence during a major prosecution.
Despite her career in the office, Florence claimed a limited understanding of current practices within the trial bureaus in the District Attorney’s office, particularly those practices that cause the most harm to low-income and Black and brown communities, thereby raising concerns as to whether she truly understands the steps needed to achieve her goals. She supports only modest reforms, such as expanding alternatives to incarceration programs, internal restructuring, and diversion for simple drug possession. Florence seems open to considering changes in the prosecution of more serious charges, but only on a case-by-case basis rather than through systemic reform. This is especially troubling because her lack of recent experience with the trial bureaus and controversial resignation may make it easier for prosecutors to defy her vision, a common problem for reform-minded prosecutors.
We find Florence’s commitment to pursuing labor violations and similar crimes genuine and backed by a proven track record. However, we strongly disagree with her belief that the criminal punishment system is a solution to public health problems such as substance use or mental health conditions. While highlighting her past work prosecuting crimes affecting working class immigrants, Florence also said she would continue to prosecute gang conspiracies, request incarceration on misdemeanor cases, and continue to prosecute low-level drug sales. In this sense, her positions reflect the general worldview of a typical prosecutor. Although her positions are marginally less harmful than Vance’s, we find it unlikely her office would take meaningfully bold or transformative stances.