Grievance Against Michael Palkhiwala

WhoA group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in March 2022 against attorney Michael Palkhiwala, alleging that Palkhiwala engaged in misconduct while prosecuting Tyrone Anderson on behalf of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (KCDAO). The law professors filed the complaint with the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh, and Thirteenth Judicial Districts, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on a New York court decision, People v. AndersonAccording to the complaint, in the Anderson case, the Appellate Division found that Palkhiwala made inflammatory remarks, denigrated the defense, and improperly commented on the accused’s pre-arrest silence. 

The complaint alleges that Palkhiwala prosecuted Anderson for burglary and related charges, and Anderson was convicted at trial in 2011. Though the Appellate Division reversed the conviction on a different ground, the court addressed Palkhiwala’s misconduct and noted its disapproval, finding that “it was improper for the prosecutor to persist in making purposefully inflammatory remarks designed to appeal to the jury’s sympathy, in disregard of the Supreme Court’s repeated admonitions.” The court noted that Palkhiwala improperly referenced Anderson’s pre-arrest silence. 

What rules are involved: The complaint notes that 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 alleges that Palkhiwala’s conduct violated the following ethical rules:

  • Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(d) and 8.4(h) mandate that a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer. 

What can be done about it: The law professors’ complaint calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including suspending Palkhiwala’s law license. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether KCDAO’s supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of Professional Conduct.

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.