Last May I wrote about a new organization in New York called "Accountability New York" created by lawyers and law professors to pursue complaints against prosecutors for misconduct. The organization started its work by filing 21 complaints to New York’s court-appointed grievance committees tasked with investigating attorney wrongdoing. Go here to read that original post.
You would think that having a group of lawyers seeking accountability prosecutorial misconduct would be a good thing; but not everyone agrees.
When the law professors of Accountability New York filed the grievances against the prosecutors they published everything online. But, because in New York disciplinary issues are supposed to be secret until (and if) until discipline is recommended, as reported by the New York Times, “the blowback from New York City was swift.”
In a letter sent directly to the grievance committee responsible for disciplining lawyers, a lawyer for the city accused the professors of politicizing the process and of violating the law by making the grievances public.
Accountability New York responded, though, and earlier this month, they filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan in which they argue that the city’s pushback against the professors included the threat of further action if they continued to file grievances. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. Here is a copy of the complaint.
The New York Times’ article quotes a spokesman for the city’s law department who claims that while prosecutors who committed misconduct should be held accountable, the professors’ attempted use of the grievance process was contrary to the law.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare unconstitutional the law that forces disciplinary proceedings to be secret as a violation of the First Amendment. The suit claims that the law is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the law professors, whose complaints relied on allegations in judicial decisions and the public record.
The ABA Journal has more on the story here. The Queens Daily Eagle also has more here.