POLITICS
04/03/2013 10:07 am ET Updated Jun 03, 2013

ProPublica On Prosecutor Accountability In New York City

The investigative journalism outfit finds . . . that there is none.

The report starts with anecdote about Claude Stuart, a city prosecutor who lost his job for misconduct, but only after having three convictions overturned. He may be the only one.

A ProPublica analysis of more than a decade's worth of state and federal court rulings found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct. In each instance, these abuses were sufficient to prompt courts to throw out convictions.

Yet the same appellate courts did not routinely refer prosecutors for investigation by the state disciplinary committees charged with policing lawyers. Disciplinary committees, an arm of the appellate courts, almost never took serious action against prosecutors. None of the prosecutors who oversaw cases reversed based on misconduct were disbarred, suspended, or censured except for Stuart. (Stuart declined repeated requests for an interview for this story.)

Nor were any but Stuart punished by their superiors in the city's district attorney offices. In fact, personnel records obtained by ProPublica show, several received promotions and raises soon after courts cited them for abuses.

Similar investigations of state and federal courts over the years have come to the same conclusion. Prosecutors are subjected to almost no accountability at all. I'll have a piece up soon looking at how this may be starting to change, at least at the margins. But it's been a long time coming.