Reflecting on 2016, St. Francis School of Law Professor Adam Lippe, a career prosecutor in Baltimore, Maryland, indicates that the biggest issue in the criminal law world is the role of the prosecutor, not just as an advocate, but as a “minister of justice”. Important discourse is in progress about the types of cases prosecutors handle, how prosecutors handle criminal cases, and the ethical and moral role that is unique to the duties of a prosecutor.
The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct have a special rule addressing the special role of prosecutors. Prosecutors operate as “ministers of justice” not just advocates. Prosecutors have obligations to prevent and address the rights of those who are wrongfully convicted. This extends to statements prosecutors make to the press, which ethics rules indicate should not be made if such statements will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding.
In California, this is being addressed by our new California State Bar Association President former prosecutor James Fox, who recently endorsed an amendment to Rule of Professional Conduct 5-110, similar to American Bar Association Model Rule 3.8, which requires broad disclosure of evidence that a prosecutor knows or should reasonably know would be helpful to the defense. If approved by the California Supreme Court, this provision will align California with most other states as far as disclosure of exculpatory evidence.
The St. Francis faculty includes several other current and former prosecutors, including Professor Ryann Jorban, Professor Raymond Chao, and Dean Carole Buckner, as well as several experienced criminal defense attorneys, including Professor Jeff Price and Professor Karen Travis.