Grievance Against Patricia Theodorou

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in May 2021 against attorney Patricia Theodorou, alleging that Theodorou engaged in misconduct while prosecuting Devon Bristol on behalf of the Queens District Attorney’s Office (QDAO). The complaint was filed with the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District but was transferred to the Committee for the Second, Eleventh & Thirteenth Judicial Districts, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in the 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. Bristol. According to the complaint, on appeal, Bristol argued that Theodorou made various improper comments during the summation, including vouching for the strength of her case, appealing to the sympathies of the jury, and disparaging Bristol and his counsel. The Appellate Division found that “certain remarks made by [Theodorou during summation] were improper,” but it did not reverse 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 Theodorou’s conduct violated the following ethical rules:

  • Rules 8.4(d) and 8.4(h) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice or 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 suspension. 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.