20
Jun2014
Attorney Misconduct

Is Prosecutorial Misconduct a Growing Problem?

Some members of the legal profession have become concerned with prosecutorial misconduct. Most notably, highly respected Federal judge Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. He wrote a dissenting opinion critical of the actions of a prosecutor in a Federal case in the Ninth Circuit of Appeals.

The judge wrote that the prosecutor’s lack of transparency highly concerned him. He failed to notify the judge about potential problems with certain important forensic evidence. Yet, the prosecutor withheld that the state police was investigating the forensic lab analyst for sloppy work in other cases.

Unfortunately for Kozinski, his fellow judges felt that the matter was only tangential to the case at hand. They believed the matter did not materially affect the outcome of the case, and therefore, outvoted him. Kozinski, as well as other judges and attorneys, has become particularly alarmed at the cavalier attitude that some prosecutors have taken in recent years.

License to Lie?

Former Federal prosecutor Sidney Powell recently released a surprising new book that exposes corruption among United States Attorneys.

Ms. Powell worked as a Federal prosecutor for ten years under nine different United States Attorneys. A U.S. Attorney is a regional manager of Federal prosecutors. High-level officials in the Justice Department and the White House handpick the prosecutors.

After leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ms. Powell felt obligated to write the book to bring light to the issue. She felt that since courts were not aggressively confronting the issue, such behavior would go unnoticed.

Ms. Powell believes that judges either have become disillusioned, overworked or are simply oblivious to the prosecutorial attacks on defendants’ personal rights. However, she believes that many judges do not intentionally overlook such behavior.

Solutions?

Ms. Powell argues in her book that at least two actions should be taken to reduce prosecutorial abuses. First, she believes that all judges should enter what she called a “Brady compliance order“. The purpose of this order is to affirm that the court is following the requirements of this U.S. Supreme Court case. In this case, the court held that prosecutors may not withhold evidence that may be helpful to the defendant.

Second, she argues that Congress should pass the Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act. This would help review potential violations of the Brady decision.

If you have additional questions about legal malpractice, contact us at (312) 223-1699.