Hearing Committee Recommends Dismissal of Formal Charges Against Assistant D.A. for Criticizing Judge



A divided hearing committee of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board recommended the dismissal of formal charges against Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Christopher S. Bowman. See 13-DB-045, Rpt. of Hrg. Cmte. No. 8 (Feb. 21, 2014).

ODC charged Bowman with violating Rule 8.2(a), which prohibits a lawyer from making “a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge . . . .” ODC faulted Bowman for commenting on a not-guilty verdict by Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur L. Hunter, more particularly, for stating that “District Attorney Cannizzaro has fought hard to eliminate corruption, and unfortunately Arthur Hunter thwarted our efforts today.” Id. 

The hearing committee found that the statement “cannot be said to be false,” because [a]ny not guilty verdict could be said to have thwarted the DA.” It further found that Bowman made the statement spontaneously in response to a reporter’s telephone call and it therefore was not “premeditated” or “reckless.” Finally, the committee found that in stating that Hunter “thwarted” crime control efforts, Bowman did not necessarily imply that the judge lacked integrity or was corrupt. The committee concluded:

Although the committee finds the Respondent did not violate the rules as charged, his
conduct is not condoned. He made a hasty remark in a public statement, critical of the judiciary.
Under these circumstances, less ambiguity and more precise language is expected of an attorney,
particularly one who is the media spokesperson for the District Attorney. While a lawyer as a
citizen has a right to criticize such officials publicly, he should be certain of the merit of his
complaint, use appropriate language, and avoid petty criticisms, for unrestrained and intemperate
statements tend to lessen public confidence in our legal system. Louisiana State Bar Ass ‘n v.
Karst, 428 So. 2d 406 (La.1983).

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