Suppose a superior court judge issues a search warrant authorizing the search of a suspect’s house for drugs. Officers execute the warrant, find drugs, seize them, and charge the suspect with drug offenses. The charges end up in superior court, where the suspect – now the defendant – moves to suppress, arguing that the search warrant application lacked probable cause and that the judge who issued the warrant erred in doing so. Is it OK for the judge who issued the warrant to hear such a motion?
North Carolina is divided into 44 prosecutorial districts. Each is headed by an elected district attorney or, the case of a mid-term vacancy, a district attorney appointed by the governor. District attorneys are constitutionally and statutorily charged with prosecuting criminal actions in their districts. Each district attorney employs a number of assistant district attorneys who assist in carrying out this work. A district attorney may even, as Jonathan discussed in this earlier post, employ a private attorney to assist with prosecution.
When a district attorney identifies a conflict of interest associated with his or her prosecution of a case, the district attorney may seek assistance with the prosecution from another prosecutorial district, the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Division, the Administrative Office of the Courts, or the Conference of District Attorneys.
Sometimes, however, the district attorney decides to proceed with prosecuting a case notwithstanding a defendant’s insistence that a conflict of interest exists. When that occurs, the defendant may ask the court to remove the prosecutor from the case. May the court do so? If so, what standard governs the court’s determination of whether the prosecutor is disqualified from the case?
My colleague Michael Crowell recently published a paper on judicial recusal, available here as a free download. It includes a discussion of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, about which I previously blogged here and here. But it goes far beyond that, of course, providing a terrific primer on … Read more
I previously posted about the Supreme Court’s decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, the basic holding of which is that a judge must recuse him- or herself from a case when someone with a “personal stake” in the matter played a “significant and disproportionate” role in the judge’s election, such as by raising … Read more
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court decided a case that could have been the subject of a John Grisham novel. The case is Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company, and the basic facts are as follows. Massey is a huge coal mining conglomerate. Caperton is the president of a much smaller company. Caperton and his … Read more