Changes aplenty at District Attorney’s office
MINDEN – It’s musical chairs at the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.
Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell started the game when he decided to leave the office.
Attorney Mark Jackson, who held one of the three contracts with the county as a defense attorney, was selected to replace Buttell.
Derrick Lopez, who handled most of the juvenile cases for the DA’s office, opted to go into private practice and take over the defense contract.
Jennifer Yturbide, who worked in the child support division of the district attorney’s office, will replace Lopez to cover the juvenile cases and the county will contract with private attorney Evan Beavers to handle the child support issues.
Buttell said it was time to go home. For three years, he has worked at the district attorney’s Stateline office, but his daughters, Natasha, 15, and Mina, 6, are in Las Vegas, where he lived for 10 years.
“The people here in this office are great. I love this place and all the wonderful people. It’s just time to be back home and be close to my children,” Buttell said.
The former Marine and highway patrolman said he will go back into business for himself, which he did for five years in Las Vegas.
“At times, I think the best prosecutor is an insightful defense counsel, so I’m prepared to do either one,” Buttell said. “I’m interested in the creative forces involved in defense and civil work and the whole facet of law that prosecutors lose out on.”
He praised the choice of his replacement.
“Mark Jackson has a very similar sense of litigation style as I do. He’ll do the right thing,” Buttell said.
Jackson – a hometown boy who graduated from Douglas High School in 1981 – said he wanted to move from the private sector to the DA’s office for two reasons. One, his partner and mentor, Milos Terzich, is retiring after 38 years in law; and two, it is a stepping stone for Jackson’s political aspirations.
Jackson, who graduated from California Western School of Law in San Diego, said he wants to run for the office of district attorney that Scott Doyle now holds. He said he will not run against Doyle, but he will throw his hat into the ring as soon as Doyle decides to move on.
Jackson said further down the road, he would consider running for district judge or even a state office, such as attorney general.
For right now, though, he said he thinks the transition will be gentle for everyone involved.
“It will be easy. (The contract attorneys and the district attorneys) have a close working relationship anyway. We have a great prosecution team, and I think the contract attorneys are better than anywhere in the state, so the system works well overall. We know the policies, we know how the DA’s office is run. I don’t think it will take long at all,” Jackson said.
However, he said, he will miss Terzich, with whom he has worked since 1991, when he was a year out of law school.
“He’s been somewhat of a mentor to me these years. He is one of the best trial attorneys I’ve ever known. His honesty, integrity and ethics are far above even what is expected of lawyers, and I think the world of him. I don’t think I could ever partner up with anyone. No one could replace Milos,” Jackson said.
The job switch holds another benefit – more time to spend with his family – wife Kathy, son Tre, 2, and daughter Talyn, 10 months.
For Lopez, who has been handling the juvenile cases for the DA’s office since March 1992, he leaves the office to practice a different kind of law.
He will be taking over the defense lawyer contract with the county that Mark Jackson is leaving. The county pays three law firms each $100,000 a year to represent indigent defendants.
“I’m just looking to balance out my career. Having the opportunity to do the contract makes it feasible to work privately. This is a chance to do civil law and family law. It’s exciting,” Lopez said.
Although he is moving from the prosecution to the defense table, Lopez said he is not worried about the transition. He said he has been keeping up on the changes in civil law since graduating from the Arizona State University College of Law in 1987, and he said he will still have the support of other lawyers, although he is leaving the comfortable environment of being surrounded by other district attorneys.
He is planning on opening an office in Gardnerville with lawyers Kathleen Kelly and Kara Hayes. Lopez’s wife, Pam, works for Kelly as a legal secretary. They have two children, Victoria, 6, and Dillon, 5.
“It will be really sad to leave, but I’m not leaving the area and I have really good relationships with everyone here,” Lopez said. “The relationships will continue – they’ll be a little different, but we just try to be professional and not take anything personally, no matter how hard-fought the job is. As a prosecutor, the job is to seek justice, to reach a fair resolution.
“As a defense attorney, the job is the represent the client, but I don’t see the jobs are opposites. It’s a change.”
Taking over juvenile cases will be Yturbide, who worked for Judge Michael Gibbons as a law clerk and has been working for the child support division of the district attorney’s office since August 1999. She began work as the prosecutor for juvenile cases this week.
“One of the big attractions for the juvenile position is the opportunity to work with kids and families,” Yturbide said. “I like children, obviously; I have two. Being a mom is very important to me. This is a great way to give back to the community, if we can get kids who are going down the wrong path and kind of get things straightened out so they become productive citizens.”
Yturbide grew up in Douglas County and graduated from Whittell High School. She went to University of Nevada, Reno, for one year before moving to California. She graduated from the University of San Francisco Law School in 1987 and began working for a firm there. She also worked as a staff attorney for the California Supreme Court before moving back to Douglas County in 1996. Yturbide has two daughters, Olivia, 10, and Natalie, 8, who go to Minden Elementary School.
Yturbide said she is interested in learning more about juvenile law.
“This kind of rounds out my experience. I enjoy variety. I like to work with interesting issues and learn new areas of law,” Yturbide said.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.