Monday, June 18, 2007

D.A. in Duke Lacrosse Case Disbarred; Side Note About Washington

A disciplinary panel from the North Carolina State Bar disbarred Mike Nifong, the Durham County prosecutor who so recklessly pursued charges against three Duke athletes who were later exonerated. Law Panel Disbars D.A. in Duke Lacrosse Case, NPR, June 16, 2007. (In that sentence, I originally thought "zealously," in the ordinary sense of the word -- but lawyers are supposed to be "zealous," just not zealous to the point of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.")

One story I heard commented that NC State Bar has traditionally not been tough prosecutorial misconduct.

That led me to wonder: what about the Washington State Bar?

WSBA's discliplinary notices are online and searchable. I searched for "prosecutor" and got 32 hits, from 1997 to date. Most of these are "false drops" -- that is, they have the word, but they aren't about prosecutors (the first one I read was about a defense attorney who failed to contact the prosecutor). Ones involving prosecutors:

  • Lawyer on inactive status was hired by prosecutor's office and asked WSBA to change his status. He began practicing before getting his CLE credits squared away. Censured, RPC 5.5, unauthorized practice of law.
  • A Thurston County prosecutor told a witness that he could "work something out" (re the witness's own prosecution) if the witness did not testify on behalf of another defendant. Disbarred, 3.4 - Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel;
    8.4 (b) - Criminal Act; 8.4 (d) - Conduct Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice.
  • A prosecutor was suspended for failure to present potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. 3.4 - Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel; 3.8 - Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.
  • A prosecutor was admonished for failure to comply with a court-ordered discovery order. 3.4 - Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel; 8.4 (c) - Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit or Misrepresentation.
Why comparatively few disciplinary actions with prosecutors? One possible factor: no clients (many disciplinary complaints involve failure to communicate with clients or mishandling client funds).

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