Progressive Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner filed a lawsuit hoping to block a bill giving some of his authority to a special prosecutor for SEPTA-related crime.
On his website, Krasner called Act 40 an “unprecedented assault on a locally elected official’s authority and on the rights of voters in the most populous and racially diverse county in the commonwealth.”
Supporters see it as an attempt to increase public safety by punishing criminals the Philly D.A. won’t.
“The Larry Krasner philosophy of non-prosecution is dangerous to law-abiding citizens and music to the ears of violent criminals,” said Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware), who is also a GOP candidate for state attorney general. “As attorney general, I will get concurrent jurisdiction from the legislature to prosecute violent crime that Larry Krasner will not. We gave Josh Shapiro that jurisdiction (as attorney general) to prosecute in Philadelphia, and he chose to side with Krasner and not use that authority to prosecute. I will use it – aggressively.”
Krasner pushed back on the proposal by pointing out on his website that the legislation was “written by a Republican senator [Wayne Langerholc] whose district in Cambria, Centre, and Clearfield Counties is far closer geographically to Allegheny County than Philadelphia County, and who has baldly stated it intends to usurp the authority of the elected district attorney in Philadelphia County only. District Attorney Larry Krasner has been duly elected by Philadelphia voters twice – most recently in 2021 by a whopping 44 percent margin.”
“Meanwhile, the attorney general who is authorized to appoint a ‘special prosecutor’ for SEPTA – which in effect would cover nearly all of Philadelphia County – is a political appointee who was not chosen by voters.”
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong/Indiana) fired back.
“Ensuring public safety is paramount to upholding our constitutional obligation as elected officials. Larry Krasner’s video announcement this morning while shielding himself from questions from the public and press further demonstrates his weak and absent leadership,” said Pittman.
“Act 40 is strong legislation which received bipartisan support by the General Assembly, was signed into law by Democrat Governor Shapiro, and is supported by SEPTA,” Pittman said. “It is time D.A. Krasner stops playing political games and starts working with Republicans and Democrats alike to make sure America’s sixth largest city is safe.”
Another local senator whose constituents ride SEPTA, Sen. Tracy Penncuick (R-Montgomery/Berks), said, “As elected officials, our number one priority must always be the safety of the public. Those who rely upon SEPTA, including many residents of my district, should never have to fear for their safety when using their vital services. Act 40 is a bipartisan, good-faith effort, which was signed into law by Gov. Shapiro to make SEPTA a safer form of transportation for all riders.”
“I hope District Attorney Krasner will rethink his position on Act 40 and join the state Senate, state House, and Gov. Shapiro in supporting and implementing this important commonsense measure,” Pennycuick added.
Attorney General Michelle Henry said her office did not request the special prosecutor but is required by law to implement Act 40.
“It is not the duty of the attorney general to determine the wisdom of the policy underlying Act 40,” she said. “The Office of Attorney General also does not have the power to, on its own, declare the statute unconstitutional — that power rests solely with the judiciary.
“Unless and until a court of law declares Act 40 unconstitutional, the Office of Attorney General is required, pursuant to the Commonwealth’s Attorney Act, to carry out this legislative mandate. Act 40 does not permit any discretion on the part of our agency to appoint a special prosecutor — it compels it.
“Our office has worked hard to meet the mandate to appoint a special prosecutor, but given the narrow requirements set by the legislature, we have been unable to do so. We will respond to Mr. Krasner’s complaint as required by court rules,” Henry said.
Act 40 is just the latest salvo in the war between the state legislature and Krasner. In 2022, the House voted to impeach Krasner, claiming he had failed to enforce the laws in Philadelphia. The Senate did not try the case because it’s been tied up in the courts and is currently pending in the state Supreme Court.