John Theodorellis – NY State Bar #2592228
Who: Law professors filed a grievance regarding John Theodorellis’s serious misconduct while prosecuting Michael Calabria on behalf of the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office (KCDAO). Despite this misconduct, at the time of the complaint, Theodorellis had no record of any public discipline in the New York Attorney Detail Report.
What they did: In People v. Calabria, the Court of Appeals found that prosecutor Theodorellis behaved improperly in multiple ways. The Court found that Theodorellis “completely disregarded” the trial judge’s pretrial ruling by asking the defense an improper question in front of the jury, improperly suggested to the jury that the defense had tried to hide evidence, and prejudiced Calabria’s right to testify by implying that Calabria had no choice but to testify. Further, the court found that Theodorellis “deliberately” commented on a newspaper article that portrayed Calabria’s parents as drug dealers and even flashed a copy to the jury, which the trial judge found “absolutely contemptuous.”
Why it’s wrong: On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed Calabria’s conviction due to the “cumulative effect” of Theodorellis’s various acts of misconduct.
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 rule that Theodorellis’s conduct likely violated:
- Rule DR 1-102 (from the Code of Professional Responsibility, later replaced by the Rules of Professional Conduct), prohibited attorneys from engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice or reflecting adversely on their fitness to practice law.
What can be done about it: The grievance calls for the committee to investigate and issue serious public discipline, including the suspension of Theodorellis’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.