Deborah Jane Cooper examines in the National Law Journal why prosecutors are rarely disciplined for misconduct. The column uses research by Yale Law School to suggest the states are doing little to hold prosecutors who misbehave accountable.
New research analyzing the policies and procedures for disciplining prosecutors in each state and in the District of Columbia shows that prosecutors are rarely held accountable when misconduct occurs. While the U.S. Supreme Court's Connick v. Thompson decision severely limits the liability prosecutors face for misconduct, and closes one of the few remaining possible channels of civil prosecutorial liability, the existing "ethics regime" the Court entrusts does not currently protect against or regularly sanction instances of prosecutorial misconduct.
Last term, the Supreme Court famously limited municipal civil liability for prosecutors in Connick. In justifying this holding in part by stating that prosecutors are "personally subject to an ethics regime designed to reinforce the profession's standards," the Court pointed to the existence of the American Bar Association (ABA) and state grievance mechanisms that set ethical standards for prosecutors and discipline them when they break the rules.
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