Grievance Against George Kanellopoulos

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in May 2021 against attorney George Kanellopoulos, alleging Kanellopoulos engaged in misconduct while prosecuting Paul Manigat on behalf of the Queens District Attorney’s Office (QDAO). 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 Queens. The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on the Appellate Division case People v. Manigat. According to the complaint, in Manigat, the Appellate Division found that Kanellopoulos violated the trial judge’s order and committed summation misconduct. Although the trial judge instructed the jury to ignore an outburst by Paul Manigat during the trial, Kanellopoulos referenced this outburst in his summation, making an improper propensity inference. The trial judge sustained the objection to this summation comment, but Kanellopoulos was undeterred and referenced the outburst a second time. The Appellate Division nonetheless affirmed the conviction.

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 Kanellopoulos’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 Kanellopoulos’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 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.