PROSECUTORIAL LIABILITY - NOTEWORTHY CASES SUMMARIZED - AS LEADS FOR YOUR OWN LEGAL RESEARCH
Last Update: October 22, 1998
The following is a summary of a few noteworthy cases involving prosecutorial liability, selected from thousands of possible cases. These case summaries are provided as useful leads to help you get into the subject of liability of prosecutors for various types of misconduct.
To understand any specific case, however, you should read the case in its full text as well as cases cited by it, and not rely on any of these brief summaries:
- !!NEW!! United States of America v. Ranger Electronics Communications, Inc.,, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14673 (W. Dist. Mich., Southern Div.), a case concerning the Hyde Amendment, 18 USC 3006A, in which the court ordered the federal government to pay attorneys' fees to the attorneys for the corporate criminal defendant as a sanction for the prosecution's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, after the criminal case was dismissed by the government upon realizing it could not prove its case; in addition, the government failed to disclose significant Brady material; the full text of the case can be found at Full Text of U.S. v. Ranger Electronic Communications, Inc.
- Powers v. Coe, 728 F.2d 97, 1984 U.S. App. LEXIS 25539 (2nd Cir. 1984) involved a forced plea of guilty following prosecutorial leaks and other alleged misconduct; the Court held that, assuming as alleged that the Chief State's Attorney and his office leaked grand jury information to the press "maliciously and in bad faith in order to prejudice public opinion against [Powers], deprive [Powers] of his right to an unbiased jury and a fair trial, pressure [Powers] to plead guilty to the charges against him, and further [the Chief State's Attorney's] own political ambitions, Powers had a Section 1983 claim for violation of his civil rights as to some of such activities; as to the press disclosures, the court held "that only qualified good faith immunity is available where a prosecutor distributes extraneous statements to the press designed to gain unfair advantage at trial. ... To the degree that a prosecutor is called upon as part of his official duties to deal with the press, it wold appear beyond cavil that such a duty would be administrative rather than "quasi-judicial," and hence not deserving of the cloak of absolute immunity; however, the court held that claimed misuse of the grand jury is given absolute prosecutorial immunity
- Richards v. City of New York, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13675, Southern District of New York, Judge Michael B. Mukasey, opinion dated September 2, 1998, explaining how prosecuting attorneys can be liable (i.e., lose their full or partial immunity) when getting involved in the investigative area Full Text of Richards v NYC
- Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 83 S. Ct. 1194 (1963) held that failure of a prosecutor to provide exculpatory evidence (consisting of a confession by defendant's companion) to the defendant's attorney was grounds for reversal of the sentencing part of the conviction, as a denial of due process under the U.S. Constitution; the prosecutor has the duty of delivering exculpatory evidence to the defendant's attorney (now referred to as "Brady Material")
- Baba-Ali v. City of New York [or "Babi-Ali" prior to 11/5/97 name correction by Judge Batts], 979 F. Supp. 268, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16656, Southern District of New York, Judge Deborah A. Batts, opinion dated October 17, 1997, denied motion to dismiss 42 U.S.C.A. Section 1983 civil rights action against New York City for "deliberate indifference" to training of NYC employees concerning child rape cases brought in context of parental custody battles (resulting in erroneous arrest and prosecution of the plaintiff father); but that NYC and its prosecutorial employees had absolute immunity from liability under the state claim of malicious prosecution
- Wagenmann v. Pozzi, 1986 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30752, District of Massachusetts, 1986 decision, upheld the poential liability of prosecutors who convey false information to the bail magistrate which resulted in the setting of excessively high bail which precluded the plaintiff from obtaining release from jail, and further that such prosecutorial statements to the judge significantly contributed to the judge's decision to commit the plaintiff to a mental hospital, citing the next case below
- Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1985 U.S. App. LEXIS 23482 (9th Cir. 1985)(en banc), in which a unanimous 9th Circuit upheld a Section 1983 civil rights claim for similar prosecutorial misconduct (alleged perjury, threatening and coercing witnesses, concealing and falsifying evidence), citing Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 68 L. Ed. 420, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981)
- Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 47 L. Ed. 2d 128, 96 S. Ct. 984 (1976) held that a prosecutor has "quasi-judicial [i.e., absolute] immunity" from suit based on actions taken pursuant to his/her quasi-judicial function; the plaintiff alleged that the prosecutor knowingly used false testimony and suppressed material evidence at trial; but the trial is part of the activities for which the prosecutor has the quasi-judicial [i.e., absolute] immunity, held the Supreme Court
- Celia v. O'Malley, 918 F.2d 1017, 1990 U.S. App. LEXIS 20083 (1st Cir. 1990), citing Imbler v. Pachtman, held that no conspiracy was between prosecutors and non-immune persons; but also held that absolute immunity does not extend to a prosecutor's activities as administrator or investigator, stating: "Therefore, Celia's claims based on the prosecutors' alleged involvement in the investigation and their statements to the press are not necessarily foreclosed by prosecutorial immunity" but held that in other cases cited there had been more adverse effect on the plaintiff by reason of the communications with the press (see the Marrero and Gobel cases referred to in the opinion)
- Rodrigues v. City of New York, 193 A.D.2d 79, 602 N.Y.S.2d 337, 1993 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8591 (1st Dept. 1993), held that prosecutorial misconduct is actionable where the conduct is causally related to the constitutional violation committed; court denied absolute immunity of prosecutor as to activities outside scope of quasi-judicial function of the prosecutor; the prosecutor is not immune per se; immunity depends on what activities of the prosescutor are at issue; as a side matter, the court repeated the point of law that entrapment does not violate a constitutional right, citing various cases to such effect
- Aversa v. United States of America, 99 F.3d 1200, 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 27339, 80 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA 5372, 25 Media L. Rep. 1033 (1st Cir. 1996) discussed, without deciding in the case itself, that an alleged constitutional violation for which the defendant prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity [such as initiating criminal charges] can provide the "plus" needed to satisfy the "defamation-plus" test referred to in Celia v. O'Malley above.
- United States of America v. Eisen, 974 F.2d 246, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 19055 (2nd Cir. 1992) referred to district court procedure of referring charges of prosecutorial misconduct [leaks of grand jury testimony] to the Department of Justice [in other words, to the department which employs the prosecutor - which later told the judge they found no evidence of any leaks]; also, held that Eisen's failure to develop evidence of "cross-pollination" among witnesses caused by the leak precluded any relief to him for the alleged prosecutorial misconduct
- United States of America v. Helmsley, 866 F.2d 19, 1989 U.S. App. LEXIS 1167 (2nd Cir. 1989) held that a motion denying relief from claim of prosecutorial leaks and adverse effect on criminal proceedings was not immediately appealable by defendant Leona Helmsley (through interloctury appeal under the "collateral order" doctrine); she will have to await for a final judgment of conviction before being able to raise such issue of grand jury leaks on appeal
- Dow Jones & Company, Inc. v. United States of America, 842 F.2d 603, 1988 U.S. App. LEXIS 3446, 15 Media L. Rep. 1105 (2nd Cir. 1988), stated (for our information) that the local prosecutor states he is bound by the existing federal rules and local rules of criminal procedure, by the Code of Professional Responsibility, and by internal Justice Department regulations as to what federal prosecutors may divulge to the public.
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