Javier Solano – NY State Bar #2809796
Who: Law professors filed a grievance regarding Javier Solano’s serious misconduct while prosecuting Lonnie Jones on behalf of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office (KCDAO). Despite this misconduct, at the time of the complaint, Solano had no record of public discipline in the New York Attorney Detail Report.
What they did: In People v. Jones, the Appellate Division found that prosecutor Solano committed misconduct by failing to correct false trial testimony and vouching for the credibility of the eyewitness. Specifically, the 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 still opposed the court telling the jury that the testimony was incorrect and they should disregard it. On appeal, the Appellate Division found that prosecutor Solano “failed to correct false trial testimony” and reversed the conviction for murder on that basis.
Why it’s wrong: Prosecutors may not mislead the court or jury and multiple prohibitions on prosecutorial conduct 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 that such conduct “strikes at the heart of his credibility as a prosecutor and an officer of the court.”
The Court of Appeals has made clear that prosecutors, in their role as public officers, must “deal fairly with the accused and be candid with the courts.” This duty requires prosecutors not only to disclose exculpatory or impeaching evidence but also to correct the knowingly 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 identifies the following then-applicable ethical rules that Solano’s conduct likely violated:
- Rule DR 7-102 (from the Code of Professional Responsibility, replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct) prohibited attorneys from using evidence they know 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 grievance calls for the committee to investigate and issue serious public discipline, including a lengthy suspension or revocation (disbarment) of Solano’s law license. It also calls for a broader investigation into other cases prosecuted by the same prosecutor, and to determine whether KCDAO supervising and managing attorneys complied with their duties under Rule 5.1 of Professional Conduct.
Note: This is a summary based on the grievance, see the grievance for more detail and context. The grievance authors do not have personal knowledge of any of the facts or circumstances of the attorney or the cases mentioned; the grievance is based entirely on court opinions, briefs and/or other documents cited therein.