In Unprecedented Move, an Ex-Prosecutor Gets Suspended for Lying

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?


Indefensible said...


Maybe they're just more ethical than you defense lawyers. After all, your "ethical duty" is to represent clients zealously. Theirs is to do justice. It's very tempting for a defense lawyer to act like a sleaze mistaking it for "zeal." Speaking of misplaced zeal, I'd say you overlook the entirely reasonable view that the numbers you cite actually show that prosecutors are just more ethical as a group. After all, I doubt the defense bar, the judiciary, and the state bar are reluctant to lodge ethics complaints against prosecutors.__One might conclude therefore that it's just whining sour grapes, not solid facts, that lead you to assume some nefarious reason for the high rate of ethical conduct among NY prosecutors. Get over it!_Tom McKenna | Homepage | 10.05.05 - 8:19 am | #

Oh now that is just ridiculous and frighteningly arrogant. Completely ignores human nature and fallibility. Not very Christian, Mr. McKenna. I think I need to move out of your state._anonymous | 10.05.05 - 11:21 am | #

Defense attorneys seek justice too. It is a checks and balances sort of thing. Your job is too easy in Virginia and zealous defense attorneys keep you from laziness and temptation._anonymous | 10.05.05 - 11:23 am | #

Anonymous said...

I've worked as a prosecutor and now am a defense attorney.

The temptation to abuse my authority as a prosecutor was ever present. There were a number of defense attorneys that not only did I not personally like, but that I found to be offensive professionally. Be that as it may, too many prosecutors take out their disdain for such defense attorneys on their clients. This is something that should never happen.

Prosecutors all too often pursue cases because their superior make them persue such cases for political motivation and not because there is a good faith basis to believe the case can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lastly, if Mr. Tom McKenna is in fact a practicing attorney I'd willing to be that he violated one of the rules of professional conduct in his state for making disparaging comments about a fellow attorney and subjecting him to public embarrassment and humiliation.

As the old adage holds, "The proof is in the pudding."