Tom Perrotta, (a fantastic reporter) has a piece in today's New York Law Journal about a scummy ex prosecutor who has finally been suspended from practicing law for three years. It turns out that he lied to a judge about the whereabouts of a potentially exculpatory witness. The ADA, a guy named CLAUDE STEWART told Queens Supreme Court Justice Jaime A. Rios that he did not know the whereabouts of a woman whose testimony might have contradicted the account of a key witness in a murder case. Four days earlier, however, Stuart and two detectives interviewed the woman at her job.
Now thank heavens this guy's been suspended from the practice of law. He is a blight on our system of justice, if sadly an all-too-common one. But here's where the story gets really interesting.
I've blogged before about how prosecutors believe themselves to be beyond reproach and above the law, and here's why. As Perrotta explains: "Two ethics experts said they could not recall the last time an attorney had been either suspended or disbarred in New York State for misconduct while working as a prosecutor.
"I don't know the last time this has happened," said Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School and the author of "Prosecutorial Misconduct," a treatise. "It's startling to hear about that."
Barry Kamins, a partner at Flamhaft Levy Kamins & Hirsch and the former chair of the disciplinary committee for the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts, said he did not know of a suspension or disbarment of a prosecutor in the last 20 years.
"On occasion there may have been a letter of caution issued to a prosecutor, but I cannot recall an assistant district attorney ever being suspended or disbarred in this state for misconduct," said Kamins, who chaired the committee from 1994 to 1998."
"Prosecutors have long been less likely to receive serious punishment from disciplinary committees, something that defense attorneys have complained has as much to do with politics as ethics. Gershman noted that investigating prosecutorial misconduct is often difficult. He added that defense attorneys are often reluctant to report prosecutors to disciplinary committees, as they work with them on a regular basis and need to maintain a good reputation for the purpose of plea bargains. "
And you wonder why the horrors continue?