California Prosecutor Faces Discipline for Bad Joke

no-jokeCalifornia disciplinary authorities (understandably) can’t take a joke. A prosecutor sent the defendant’s lawyer a transcript that included an English translation of the defendant’s Spanish recorded statement. Purportedly as a joke, the prosecutor added this to the translation:

[Officer]: You’re so guilty you child molester.

[Suspect]: I know. I’m just glad she’s not pregnant like her mother.

As a result, disciplinary authorities charged him with violating sections 6106 and 6068(a) of California’s Business and Professions Code. Section 6106 prohibits a lawyer from committing “any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption.” Section 6068 requires a lawyer “[t]o support the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.” Disciplinary counsel has alleged that the prosecutor violated the defendant’s due process rights and right to counsel by inserting the made-up confession into the transcript and by failing to turn over all relevant evidence and statements made by the defendant. See Cal. Penal Code §1054.1.

Similar to California’s section 6106, Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 8.4(c) provides that it is misconduct for a lawyer to “[e]ngage in conduct involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Also, Rule 3.4 prohibits a Louisiana lawyer from altering, destroying or falsifying evidence. Considering these rules, a similar “joke” would fall as flat in Louisiana as this one did in California.

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