Grievance Against Franchesca Basso

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in May 2021 against attorney Franchesca Basso, alleging Basso engaged in misconduct while prosecuting Jose Baez on behalf of the Queens District Attorney’s Office (QDAO). The complaint was filed with the Grievance Committee for the Second, Eleventh and Thirteenth Judicial Districts, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in Queens. The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on an Appellate Division case, People v. Baez. According to the complaint, the Appellate Division found that testimony Basso elicited violated the rule of “bolstering” and comments in her opening and closing statements were improper. Generally excluded as hearsay, “bolstering” means the improper presentation of evidence at trial of a prior consistent statement intended to validate trial testimony. The court declined to reverse the conviction, finding that Basso’s misconduct was harmless.

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 Basso’s conduct violated the following ethical rules:

  • Rule 8.4(d) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits attorneys engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
  • Rule 8.4(h) prohibits attorneys from engaging 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 suspend Basso’s license to practice law. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether QDAO’s supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of the New York Rules 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.