Grievance Against Mark Hale

Who: A group of criminal defense and civil rights lawyers filed an ethics complaint in October 2021 against attorney Mark Hale, alleging that Hale engaged in misconduct while a prosecutor at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and calling for an investigation into Hale’s conduct in two other cases, as well as in his role as the head of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU). The attorneys filed the complaint with the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh & Thirteenth Judicial Districts, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in Kings County (Brooklyn). The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based primarily on the case People v. Campos. According to the complaint, during Hale’s 1998 homicide prosecution of Mr. Campos, the trial court found that Hale committed a Brady violation and prosecutorial misconduct. The complaint alleges that Hale did not inform the defense that a key witness had met with prosecutors, including Hale, prior to trial and informed them that the witness’ earlier account was false. The complaint alleges that Hale helped formulate the District Attorney Office’s polygraph examination questions for the witness, but failed to inform the defense about the examination. According to the complaint, when the court asked Hale directly, Hale initially told the court that he did not know anything about it, and then said he did not “recall,” before eventually conceding in court that he had indeed helped formulate the polygraph examination questions. The court found Hale’s conduct to be “truly egregious” and defined it as “prosecutorial misconduct,” striking all of the witness’s testimony. The appellate court found that the trial court’s remedy-striking the witness’s testimony-was sufficient and did not reverse Mr. Campos’s conviction.

The complaint also calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate Hale’s conduct in two other matters, People v. Emmanuel Cooper and People v. Garnell Thompson, which the complaint states Hale prosecuted in 1993 and 2003, respectively.

Finally, the complaint calls for an investigation into Hale’s conduct as the head of the CRU: “After prosecuting and securing convictions against Campos, Thompson, Cooper and many other people, Hale was placed in charge of the Kings County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit and tasked with taking a fresh look at old Brooklyn convictions. Given Hale’s long career as a prosecutor in the same office prior to entering the CRU, many, if not all, of the cases that would have been ripe for an independent CRU review were the same cases prosecuted by Hale himself or one of his colleagues.” The complaint calls for an investigation into “the CRU’s practices” during Hale’s tenure “to determine whether, under Hale’s supervision, the CRU properly and neutrally investigated the cases brought to its attention.” 

What rules are involved: Prosecutors wield immense power, the power to seek punishment on behalf of the state, and should be held to the highest ethical standards. The grievance calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate Hale’s conduct under the following ethical rules:

  • The Code of Professional Responsibility (later replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct) constituted the applicable professional set of rules in 1993, 1998 and 2005, when Cooper, Campos, and Thompson were prosecuted. Rule DR 7-103(b) required a prosecutor to make “timely disclosure … of the existence of evidence, known to the prosecutor or other government lawyer, that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense or reduce the punishment.”  In addition, two other rules similarly required prosecutorial disclosure and prohibited knowing concealment of evidence.
  • Rule DR 1-102 prohibited attorneys from engaging in conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, or that adversely reflected on their fitness to practice law.

What can be done about it: The lawyers’ complaint calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate and appropriately discipline Hale based on the trial court’s finding of misconduct in People v. Campos. It also asks the Committee to investigate Hale’s conduct as a prosecutor in the cases of Cooper, Thompson, and any other cases in which the issue of Hale’s misconduct was raised in the courts before trial, at trial, on appeal, in CPL §440.10 motions, or in lawsuits alleging government misconduct, as well as in any of Hale’s cases that were the subject of other ethical grievances mentioned in the media as potentially involving misconduct, or identified by any other source. Finally, the complaint calls for the Committee to investigate the CRU’s practices during Hale’s eight-year tenure to determine whether, under Hale’s supervision, the CRU properly and neutrally investigated the cases brought to its attention.

Update: As of January 1, 2024, the Grievance Committee has not informed the complainants whether there was (or will be) an investigation, what any investigation revealed, and whether discipline was (or will be) imposed as a result of this alleged misconduct. Deprived of such information, the public has no way to evaluate whether this government body is doing its job. We call on the Grievance Committee to make its proceedings and findings in this matter transparent to the public.

Any member of the public is able to see an attorney’s record of public discipline on the Attorney Detail Report.

Note: This is a summary based on the grievance, click on the grievance below for more detail. The grievance authors do not have personal knowledge of any of the facts or circumstances of the attorney or case(s) mentioned; the grievance is based on court opinions, briefs and/or other documents cited therein.