Monday, February 20, 2012

Justice Dept asks Court to remove the name of district attorney who engaged in misconduct from opinion, Court refuses

I have often complained that courts do not do enough to encourage proper conduct by district attorneys.  Today I am happy to report an incident that shows the opposite.

The story involves an assistant US district attorney who engaged in certain misconduct. When the Ninth Circuit's opinion named the prosecutor by name, the government filed a motion asking that the name be removed but the court refused not only deciding to retain the references to the district attorney by name but also adding criticism of his superiors. The opinion reads, in part:
We are also troubled by the government’s continuing failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for Albert’s error.  The Department of Justice has an obligation to its lawyers and to the public to prevent prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors, as servants of the law, are subject to constraints and responsibilities that do not apply to other lawyers; they must serve truth and justice first. . . . Their job is not just to win, but to win fairly, staying within the rules. . . . That did not happen here, and the district court swiftly and correctly declared a mistrial . . .
When a prosecutor steps over the boundaries of proper conduct and into unethical territory, the government has a duty to own up to it and to give assurances that it will not happen again. Yet, we cannot find a single hint of appreciation of the seriousness of the misconduct within the pages of the government’s brief on appeal. Instead, the government attempts to shift blame by stating that “the prosecutor gave the defense counsel an opportunity to stop the offending question before the prosecutor asked it,” . . . 
The full text of the opinion is here (thanks to Jonathan Turley for the link). For more on the story go here and here.

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