Crime in the Suites: An Analyis of Current Issues in White Collar Defense
Feb 04
2011

New DOJ Unit Will Keep Eye on Prosecutors’ Misconduct

The U.S. Department of Justice — possibly stung by several recent instances of prosecutorial misconduct, many of which were outlined in a USA Today investigation — has set up a new unit to review instances of intentional or reckless conduct by its attorneys.

The new Professional Misconduct Review Unit, announced last month, will be headed by Kevin Ohlson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. It will examine misconduct findings made by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility in order to ensure that federal prosecutors face swifter and more consistent punishment if the Office determines that they committed misconduct. In addition, the new internal unit will make referrals to state bar associations and disciplinary authorities.

The new unit was created amid widespread criticism of the Justice Department following several high-profile cases of discovery misconduct and ethical violations by prosecutors. We have previously reported on the Ted Stevens case here and here, for example. In this case, the Department dismissed a seven-count corruption indictment against former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens following a guilty verdict in a jury trial during which the judge repeatedly rebuked prosecutors for failing to disclose evidence that was potentially helpful to the defense.

USA Today recently identified 201 criminal cases nationwide in which federal courts found that prosecutors had violated laws or ethical rules. In each of the cases, the judges overturned the convictions or rebuked the prosecutors for the misconduct. Despite the seriousness of these cases, the newspaper found that the Department often took years to investigate the alleged misconduct and that there was little risk that prosecutors would lose their jobs for misconduct.

Attorney General Holder said that the new unit was created because current procedures for resolving attorney discipline at DOJ “consume too much time, and risk inconsistent resolutions.” The new unit, he said, would provide “consistent, fair, and timely resolution of these cases.” Until now, the decision to discipline career prosecutors for ethics violations had been made by the prosecutors’ supervisors, most of them U.S. attorneys who were busy supervising their offices’ case loads. The new unit will have a staff devoted to investigating prosecutorial misconduct and will therefore be able to make disciplinary decisions more quickly.

It remains to be seen how much impact the new unit will have. It is certain, however, that DOJ has a long way to go in restoring faith in its prosecutors.

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  • Jim Simms says:

    After decades as a private investigator, I have witnessed prosecutorial misconduct many times. My last high profile defense case, detailed in my book Don’t Get Arrested in South Carolina, revealed misconduct and criminality in prosecution, law enforcement, and among the defense attorneys.

    There are statutory remedies for this behavior but no one is held accountable. Defendants are powerless. Defense attorneys are not fervent enough and judges shy away from the issue.

    This DOJ Prosecutorial Misconduct Unit will be window dressing until we see prosecutors in prison for depriving defendants of their civil rights.

    Jim Simms
    (803) 309-6850

  • […] violations by federal prosecutors. In the wake of the Ted Stevens prosecution and other instances, the Justice Department recently set up a new unit to keep an eye on prosecutors’ misconduct, but perhaps the lessons are not being learned quickly enough by prosecutors in Eric Holder’s […]

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About Ifrah Law

Crime in the Suites is authored by the Ifrah Law Firm, a Washington DC-based law firm specializing in the defense of government investigations and litigation. Our client base spans many regulated industries, particularly e-business, e-commerce, government contracts, gaming and healthcare.

Ifrah Law focuses on federal criminal defense, government contract defense and procurement, health care, and financial services litigation and fraud defense. Further, the firm's E-Commerce attorneys and internet marketing attorneys are leaders in internet advertising, data privacy, online fraud and abuse law, iGaming law.

The commentary and cases included in this blog are contributed by founding partner Jeff Ifrah, partners Michelle Cohen and George Calhoun, counsels Jeff Hamlin and Drew Barnholtz, and associates Rachel Hirsch, Nicole Kardell, Steven Eichorn, David Yellin, and Jessica Feil. These posts are edited by Jeff Ifrah. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments!

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