Grievance Against Raphael Pearl

Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in March 2022 against attorney Raphael Pearl, alleging that Pearl engaged in misconduct in two separate cases he prosecuted on behalf of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. The complaint alleges that Pearl’s misconduct led to the reversal of convictions in both cases. The law professors filed the complaint with the Grievance Committee for the Tenth Judicial District, the body that handles ethics complaints against attorneys in Suffolk County. The following summary is based on the complaint.

What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on decisions from the Appellate Division in People v. Hubbard and People v. Flores.

According to the complaint, in Hubbard, the Suffolk County Supreme Court found that Pearl violated the Brady v. Maryland rule, depriving Hubbard of due process and a fair trial. Critically, the court found that Pearl had actual knowledge of the favorable evidence he suppressed. His misconduct led to the Suffolk County Supreme Court’s reversal of a murder conviction, which the Appellate Division later affirmed. The Appellate Division determined that if Pearl had provided the evidence he withheld, there was a reasonable possibility that Hubbard would not have been convicted.

In a separate case, People v. Flores, the complaint alleges that Pearl obtained a manslaughter conviction against Wilfredo Flores. Three years later, the Appellate Division reversed the conviction, finding that Pearl “engaged in misconduct throughout his summation,” depriving Mr. Flores of his right to a fair trial.

What rules are involved: 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 Pearl’s conduct violated the following Rules of Professional Conduct:

  • Under Rules 8.4(d) and 8.4(h), 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.

The complaint further alleges that Pearl’s conduct in Hubbard may also constitute violations of the following Rules of Professional Conduct:

  • Rule 3.8(b) requires a prosecutor to make “timely disclosure…of the existence of evidence, known to the prosecutor or other government lawyer, that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the degree of the offense or reduce the punishment.” 
  • Rule 3.3(a)(1) orders that a lawyer”“shall not knowingly [] make a false statement of fact or
    law to a tribunal…”
  • Rule 8.4(c) prohibits an attorney from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

What can be done about it: The law professors’ complaint calls for the Grievance Committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including disbarment (revoking Pearl’s law license). It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether supervising and managing attorneys at Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office 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.

2889186

More Suffolk County Grievances