How Can We Hold Prosecutors Accountable for Misconduct?

Prosecutors are rarely held accountable for acts of misconduct or abuses of power in our country. Yet another example of this reality comes from a case out of Florida, where prosecutors engaged in egregious, intentional courtroom misconduct throughout the trial.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the conviction in the case because they found that the misconduct did not affect the outcome of the trial.

The law provides judges with tools that guide them to weigh prosecutorial misconduct against the facts of a case to determine whether the misconduct was severe enough to affect the outcome of the trial. Regardless of what appellate courts decide (i.e., to uphold the conviction or remand it for retrial), the simple truth is that misconduct has occurred. Unfortunately, the system does not provide judges with tools to guide them on how to address acts of prosecutorial misconduct. While defense attorneys, fellow prosecutors, and judges are ethically obligated to report acts of misconduct by prosecutors to the proper disciplinary authority, this reporting rarely happens. When prosecutors do face disciplinary proceedings, meaningful sanctions are uncommon and rarely go further than a public censure.

As a result, prosecutors can predict how much misconduct will be tolerated by the system before a case even goes to trial. As long as the misconduct doesn't prejudice the outcome of a trial to the point that a conviction is reversed, the misconduct will slip through the cracks and the prosecutor will not face any consequences.

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Professor Obama will restore the Constitution


Today is a very important holiday. The congress did not nearly unanimously pass a resolution recognizing it's importance. But it's pretty damn important in my mind, I am speaking of course of the Bill Of Rights day. How am I celebrating Bill of Rights day? I've already drunk some tea from my disappearing civil liberties cup as shown above and watch our bill of rights disappear (Thanks Patriot Act!) Now I'm mad enough to do something about it. But first I recommend you get a similar cup. Only 11 dollars on Amazon. Now on to the real topic of the diary, why I believe former Professor (He was actually a Senior Lecturer in Law but professor sounds better) Obama will restore our constitution and our Bill of Rights. And a little call to action.

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Dem Senate Leadership Stupid on Southwick, Part II

You may remember the stupidity of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past summer, where Chairman Leahy put off the vote on the nomination to the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals of right-wing bigot Judge Leslie Southwick until Republicans had enough votes to win.  Whereas, if Leahy had held the vote early in the summer, he had the votes to defeat the nomination.

Well, Majority Leader Reid is proving just as incompetent.

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Philadelphia Elections: My Endorsements

There are a lot of elections to watch in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Basically, everything outside of the state legislature, the governorship, and federal elections is on the ballot. Personally, I think that there are too many elections taking place on Tuesday, and that the "row offices" and judicial elections should take place in the first year of the four-year cycle (2005, 2009, 2013, etc) instead of the third year (2003, 2007, 2011, etc.)

I wanted to spend much more time blogging about many of these individual campaigns, but the sheer number of worthy campaigns to focus on, combined with my national focus as a blogger, made it too difficult to reach more than a handful. Still, in the extended entry, I have listed my endorsements for most of the campaigns that will be decided tomorrow in both Philadelphia (mayor, city council at-large, city council district races, "row offices", local judges, and ballot questions) and statewide in Pennsylvania (supreme court and superior court). I briefly discuss, and make endorsements, on one ballot question, and nineteen different campaigns. If a campaign is not listed, it is either because I have no preference, or I simply feel that I do not have enough information to make an informed endorsement.

This is the biggest non-presidential election the city has faced in sixteen years, and we could see some huge changes for the better. Of course, we could also see the status quo upheld, or even a regression, as well. No matter what happens, it is the first large-scale electoral test of the progressive movement in Philadelphia, and what happens here will have widespread, national implications. This is potentially a major turning point for the city, and for the success of local progressive activism. My endorsements, along with brief explanations of each, can be found in the extended entry.

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The New Authoritarian America: Enjoy!

I have previously written about Orange County, California. ( See "Do Not Come to Southern California--" Search: theopendimension) It is probably one of the most right-wing counties in the nation. If Messrs. Bush and Cheney were to choose a model for what they planned the entire country to become, this would no doubt be it. And actually the model seems to be rapidly becoming the reality nationwide, from what I can gather from contacts around the country. In this "consumer" society the mercantile class, dutifully served by right -wing politicians and judges, is attaining virtual absolute power.

What is particularly disturbing to me, having practiced law during the 70s and early 80s, is the gross deterioration of the legal system. It no longer even pretends to serve the people. In Orange County, for example, you learn fast enough that if you have a claim against a landlord, a service corporation or the medical industry you don't even bother going into the county courts. The law in Orange County is that if you have a claim of up to $3000 and the court decides against you, you can't appeal to the next higher court. But the defendant you're suing can appeal. And the defendant, usually a merchant of some kind, of course hardly ever loses. Has the constitution been repealed? Landlords in south Orange County routinely take a substantial part of a vacating tenant's security money to prepare the apartment for the incoming tenant. This is clearly illegal unless the vacating tenant has damaged the apartment. Yet landlords do it all the time because they know they can get away with it. I know of one case where the tenant contacted the Orange- County "Fair Housing" bureau to complain about this kind of theft of security monies by a landlord and was advised: " If that's the landlord's policy we can't help you." Whoever has the most money in his pocket wins. That's the law in right-wing Orange County. And that's what the entire country is or will soon be under right-wing mercantile authoritarianism, our new political philosophy.  God help us.

Oh, and if you get a traffic ticket in Orange County don't bother pleading not guilty. If you get a ticket here and decide to plead not guilty you have to send the assessed amount of the fine in to the court along with your not-guilty plea. They don't call it a fine; they call it "bail." What do you think your chances are of getting it back? Again the public just surrenders and takes it on the chin. "Bail" for having a defective tail light? Yes, Ralph, and don't protest about it or we'll book you as a "disorderly person." ( They often like to call you by your first name. It makes you feel like a nine-year-old recalcitrant child )That's Orange County. The Model.

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