The School of Government and the Conference of District Attorneys co-sponsored Practical Skills for New Prosecutors last week. The five-day course includes 12 hours of Professionalism for New Attorneys requirements, so we spent a lot of time talking about professionalism and ethics. While every attorney should, of course, be familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct, there are five ethics rules that should be at the top of every prosecutor’s list.
The American Bar Association published a formal ethics opinion last week advising prosecutors of their duties in plea bargaining with defendants charged with misdemeanor offenses. The opinion is one part scathing indictment of the process for prosecuting petty offenses across the country and one part ethical advice for prosecutors.
A case involving charges of impaired driving is calendared on today’s district court docket. The defendant was charged more than two years ago; the case has been continued several times pursuant to motions made by the defendant and the State. When this case last appeared on the docket, the State moved for a continuance, and the defendant objected. The district court granted the State’s motion, but ordered that it be the last continuance for the State. Earlier this morning, the State again moved to continue the case. The district court denied the State’s motion, and directed the State to call the case or dismiss the charges. The State refused to take either action. What can the judge do?
The number of lawyers using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media networks grows daily. So too does the number of lawyers doing foolish and unethical things on those networks.
In this post I highlight some of the more egregious social media missteps made by lawyers in recent years, in the hope that other lawyers won’t repeat them. Then I describe how the Rules of Professional Conduct apply to social media both generally and in specific contexts such as investigations, litigation, and client testimonials.
The domestic violence case against Carolina Panther Greg Hardy was dismissed this week. According to the Charlotte Observer, a principal reason was that the alleged victim, Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, refused to cooperate and avoided service of a subpoena. Prosecutors also told the judge that the alleged victim had reached a civil settlement with Hardy. To be clear, no one has said that the settlement agreement required the alleged victim not to cooperate. But could the agreement contain such a provision?
Many criminal defense lawyers are reluctant to give incarcerated clients copies of discovery materials. Lawyers may worry that the materials will be stolen by other inmates, who will then use the information in the materials to bolster false claims that the defendant confessed to them. And lawyers may believe that certain clients simply should not have access to certain materials, such as the addresses and phone numbers of witnesses or alleged victims. But what if a client insists on having a copy of discovery materials? A new State Bar ethics opinion addresses this issue.
Everyone knows that under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), a prosecutor must disclose material exculpatory or mitigating evidence to the defense. But does Brady apply only prior to trial, or does the obligation continue after a defendant has been convicted? That’s one of the questions raised by this Washington Post article, which reports … Read more
Criminal defendants, especially those sentenced to long prison terms, sometimes try to attack their convictions and sentences by claiming that their trial lawyers provided ineffective assistance of counsel. The state sometimes seeks trial lawyers’ help in answering these claims, and trial attorneys may want to help in order to avoid findings of ineffectiveness. At the … Read more
Last month, the State Bar issued a proposed ethics opinion regarding contact between prosecutors and defense lawyers, on the one hand, and children who are prosecuting witnesses in criminal cases involving allegations of physical or sexual abuse, on the other. The proposed opinion, which is available here, concludes that a lawyer “may not interview a … Read more