SANTA ROSA (BCN) — When Sonoma County’s first female district attorney takes office on Jan. 3, she’ll already be familiar with the staff and the cramped quarters on the second floor of the Sonoma County courthouse in Santa Rosa.

Jill Ravitch, 52, of Sebastopol, was admitted to the bar in 1987 and joined the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office in 1990.

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She prosecuted sexual assault, domestic violence and homicide cases until she resigned in 2004 to practice as a defense attorney.

Ravitch unsuccessfully challenged District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua for the top spot in 2006, served as Chief Deputy District Attorney in Mendocino County, then ran against Passalacqua again in the June 2010 primary election. She won with 54 percent of the vote.

Ravitch said she’s been addressing budget, policy and personnel issues and meeting with county and district attorney’s office staff members since she won the election.

“I want to be the best district attorney I can for the people of Sonoma County. There are places we can improve on,” she said.

Ravitch said she wants to establish a unit dedicated to prosecuting physical and financial abuse crimes against seniors, place more emphasis on prosecuting gang crimes, and recruit an experienced environmental crimes prosecutor.

She plans to return part of her $200,000 salary to the county once she takes office, she said. She also said she wants to get back in the courtroom.

“I plan to try at least one case a year. I, too, enjoy being in the courtroom,” she said.

She will also assign caseloads to some of the four chief deputy district attorneys and two assistant district attorneys, she said.

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“They will be in the courtroom. Everyone will be a trained trial attorney. We’re going to be an office of litigators,” Ravitch said.

She plans to wait 30 days before making any staff changes.

“We’ll seek to provide consistency in the courtrooms. There will be a sexual assault and domestic violence unit, but we’ll disband the homicide unit,” Ravitch said.

Ravitch said the county’s judges, including new appointees and those elected in November, all come from distinguished backgrounds.

Passalacqua’s office had a strained relationship with the media at times, but Ravitch said her office would be accessible to the news media.

“I will be available to you, and my lawyers will be available to speak to the media,” she said. “They are not going to be discouraged, but the cases will be tried in the courts.”

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