Grievance against Nicole Aloise

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in May 2021 against attorney Nicole Aloise, alleging Aloise engaged in misconduct while prosecuting cases 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 two Appellate Division cases, People v. McCray and People v. Velez, and one unidentified case from a news article.

According to the complaint, in McCray, the Second Department Appellate Division found that Aloise made “patently improper” arguments when she impermissibly vouched for the credibility of the complainant and for the strength of her case, appealed to the jurors’ sympathy, and denigrated both the defendant and the defense itself. The complaint says that the Appellate Division reversed McCray’s conviction based on ineffectiveness of counsel, not Aloise’s conduct, but one of the reasons defense counsel was ineffective was because he failed to object to Aloise’s improper statements.

In Velez, the complaint alleges that Aloise’s summation comments drew explicit rebukes from the Appellate Division judges presiding over the case on appeal. According to the complaint, during oral argument on appeal, an appellate justice explicitly rebuked Aloise’s summation as “unprofessional” and questioned why Aloise did not try to win the case through the evidence, rather than being “glib.” The complaint quotes another justice as noting, “I could read this summation and without knowing what office it is from would say it is from Queens. That’s the reputation that your office is building with this court.” The court’s ultimate written decision held that “to the extent that some of the prosecutor’s remarks were improper,” reversal was not required. 

Finally, the complaint makes note of an unidentified case reported in the New York Law Journal where the defense attorney was quoted alleging that Aloise told jurors in summation that defense counsel had “made things up,” which the complaint says is improper and denigrates defense counsel.

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 Aloise’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 complaint calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate and suspend Aloise’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.