Matt Chandler, 28, an assistant district attorney in the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, is one of the newer members of the local legal profession but he’s not new to the area. His great-great-grandfather was one of the community’s earliest settlers in 1908. His father spent 24 years in the Clovis Police Department, retiring as chief of police.
Q: Tell me why, as the son of a police officer, you want to be prosecuting criminals?
A: Growing up in a law enforcement home and watching my dad put his uniform on every day, holster his gun and walk out the door, I have a tremendous respect for law enforcement. Growing up I knew that I wanted to be a part of law enforcement, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was going to be until the mid-’80s when my dad took me to observe a first-degree murder trial. I sat through the trial and at that point I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor.
Q: Could you ever work as a defense attorney?
A: With no disrespect to defense attorneys, the justice system definitely needs them and we have some very good ones in this community, but I’m a career prosecutor.
Q: Tell me why it is that you love prosecuting so much?
A: I take great pride and have a great respect for law enforcement. I think it’s a very important aspect to our society. I like prosecuting so much because every day is exciting, every day is interesting, and at the end of the day if you’ve done your job and you’ve done it well, I have fulfillment that I’ve possibly made a difference not only in the victim’s life but also the community that I’ve been born and raised in.
Q:Does your family’s law enforcement background assist you with having a better relationship with the police on the beat?
A: I strive to have a very good relationship with our community’s police officers. We work together day in and day out, we have to be able to have that trust with each other, we have to be able to read each other. We’re all striving for the same goal, and that’s to protect the community and make a difference by prosecution. … I think I have an excellent relationship with the officers because of the way I was raised.
Q: Tell me, if you could, what is most difficult about your role as a prosecutor?
A: Sometimes you feel you are seeing the same characters come through the justice system again and again. It’s difficult because you feel like you put forth all the effort to either rehabilitate the defendant or possibly put them in a correctional facility to where they don’t harm again, but the difficult times are when, before you know, it you’re dealing with the same individuals.
Q: How does it make you feel when you lose a case you’ve worked very hard at and that you think you should have won?
A: Fortunately it hasn’t happened very often, but it’s a difficult feeling. The thing you’ve got to remind yourself is you have to have faith in the justice system and you have faith it’s not about necessarily winning or losing the case. You present the facts to the jury and you present them the best way you know how. You have to have faith the system will find justice. Whether you win or lose, you’re seeking justice, and I have faith in the system that it works itself out. … We have the finest criminal justice system in the world I believe, right here in this country, and I have a tremendous respect for the jury and the way it works itself out.
Q: If you could change just one thing, what would you most like to change?
A: I think the most frustrating thing that we face in our profession, whether it be police officer or prosecutor, is crimes against children. If I could change one thing, it would be that not one innocent child would never be harmed again. … It’s almost a race to the youth between law enforcement and drug dealers. Whoever gets to the youth first can really make a difference. … If we can teach our young people how to be respectful, that there are consequences to their actions, many times they will think first before they get involved a bad situation. But sometimes we miss those youth, and when we do, many times we end up dealing with them later in the law enforcement community.
—By Darrell Todd Maurina