A district attorney is the most powerful person in Oregon’s criminal justice system.

A district attorney, or DA, is the top elected prosecutor in each county. Oregon, which has 36 counties, has 36 elected district attorneys. In larger counties, the DA hires and supervises a staff of deputy prosecutors. In smaller counties, the district attorney may be the only prosecutor.

DAs and the prosecutors they supervise are lawyers. But, unlike most lawyers, prosecutors don’t have traditional clients. Instead, prosecutors represent “the state” against people they decide to charge with crimes. That means that DAs make decisions on behalf of Oregon’s residents about who is brought into the criminal justice system and how their behavior will be addressed. DAs represent you.

Prosecutors, like all licensed lawyers in Oregon, have to meet general education requirements established by the Oregon State Bar. However, they are not required to have any special training or education specific to being a prosecutor.

Though most elected DAs have spent their career as deputy prosecutors, there is no requirement that the elected DA have that background. Any lawyer can be a DA if the people choose to elect them.