Javier Solano – NY State Bar #2809796
Who: A group of law professors filed an ethics complaint in March 2022 against attorney Javier Solano, alleging that Solano engaged in misconduct while prosecuting Lonnie Jones on behalf of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (KCDAO). 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, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The following summary is based on the complaint.
What: The ethics complaint, also known as a grievance, is based on a New York court decision, People v. Jones. According to the complaint, in the Jones case, the Appellate Division found that prosecutor Solano committed misconduct by failing to correct false trial testimony and vouching for the credibility of the eyewitness.
The complaint details that an eyewitness falsely testified that she had identified Jones’s nephew in a lineup. Solano only spoke up during deliberations, when the jury asked about the testimony, and Solano opposed the court telling the jury that the testimony was incorrect and that they should disregard it. On appeal, the Appellate Division found that Solano “failed to correct false trial testimony” and reversed the murder conviction on that basis.
What rules are involved: The ethics complaint notes that prosecutors may not mislead the court or jury and notes that multiple prohibitions on prosecutorial misconduct relate to dishonesty. Because they are representatives of the state, not lawyers for an individual, prosecutors possess a “special duty” not to mislead a judge, jury, or defense counsel. In choosing to suspend former prosecutor Claude Stuart for making misleading statements to the court, the Appellate Division noted in Matter of Stuart that such conduct “strikes at the heart of his credibility as a prosecutor and an officer of the court.”
The complaint details that courts have made clear that prosecutors, in their role as public officers, must not only disclose exculpatory or impeaching evidence, but must also correct false or mistaken material testimony of a prosecution witness.
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 Solano’s conduct violated the following then-applicable ethical rules:
- Rule DR 7-102 (from the Code of Professional Responsibility, replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct) prohibited attorneys from using evidence they knew to be false.
- Rule DR 1-102 prohibited attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or reflecting adversely on their fitness as a lawyer.
What can be done about it: The law professors’ complaint calls on the Grievance Committee to investigate and issue public discipline, including suspending or revoking Solano’s law license. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether KCDAO’s supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of Professional Conduct.
Unfortunately, the Grievance Committee has not informed the professors or the public of the outcome of this ethics complaint or even whether the complaint is being investigated. 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 be transparent in its proceedings and findings in this matter.
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.