On November 4, 2021, six law professors and Civil Rights Corps filed a complaint against New York City officials following the officials’ attempts to prevent the professors from publicly publishing their grievances and deny the professors their right to know what becomes of the grievances. The New York Times published a compelling article on the complaint and in a groundswell of support, dozens of law professors signed an open letter in support of transparency.
On June 13, 2022, the court made an important ruling on a motion for partial summary judgment, determining that the professors and Civil Rights Corps have a constitutionally protected right to publish their own Grievance Complaints. The ruling also addressed other areas of the lawsuit, which continues on. Read the full decision below.
Prosecutors have immense power in our legal system.
According to legal ethics rules, prosecutors are supposed to act as “ministers of justice,” not just advocates, and abide by their ethical obligations to ensure that people accused of crime receive due process of the law and that innocent people are not convicted. Court decisions, written statutes and ethical codes provide rules that are meant to make sure that prosecutors provide evidence to the defense, conduct themselves properly in trial, and make sure the accused’s rights are not violated.
However, prosecutors have, on far too many occasions, broken the most basic rules to win cases. This is called Prosecutorial Misconduct. Some of the most common examples are below.
Prosecutorial misconduct can lead to disastrous consequences, including wrongful convictions, people spending decades in prison and destroying entire families whose loved ones spend years behind bars. This egregious abuse is directly linked to, and occurs in the context of, the ugly rise of mass incarceration and the targeted harm the system inflicts on Black and brown communities. A recent national study of 2,400 exonerations found that almost a third of them included prosecutorial misconduct. The Death Penalty Information Center identified more than 550 cases nationwide in which a capital conviction or death sentence was overturned as a result of prosecutorial misconduct.
To learn more about some common types of prosecutorial misconduct and the powerful role of the prosecutor in the criminal system, check out The Problem.
Listen to Derrick Hamilton, co-founder of Families and Friends of the Wrongfully Convicted, describe his wrongful incarceration and his view on the problem of prosecutorial misconduct.
Prosecutorial power creates an opaque system where accountability is rare and rarely public. Courts, district attorneys, and bar associations seldomly issue public discipline for prosecutorial misconduct.
Accountability NY–a coalition of law professors, Civil Rights Corps, attorneys, impacted community members, and others–have worked on grievances based primarily on public records, such as court findings of prosecutorial misconduct or District Attorney Offices’ own investigations into their prosecutors’ practices, where those prosecutors and former prosecutors still had no record of public discipline. You can read the filed complaints on the Grievances page.
To learn more about some common types of prosecutorial misconduct and the powerful role of the prosecutor in the criminal system, check out The Problem. To see News and Resources for further exploration, check out News & Resources.