Orleans Parish DA is Using Fake Subpoenas

Charles Maldonado at The Lens has an interesting report on the use of fake subpoenas by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. The office issues self-described “SUBPOENAS” and summons recipients to the office for interviews. Further, it threatens “fine and imprisonment” for “failure to obey.” See Charles Maldonado, Orleans Parish Prosecutors are Using Fake Subpoenas to Pressure Witnesses to Talk to Them (Apr. 26, 2017).

In my view, it is inappropriate for the district attorney’s office to falsely declare that such documents are “subpoenas” and to state that disregarding them can be punishable by fine or imprisonment. These statements are “false statements of material fact or law to a third person,” and may violate Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct 4.1(a).

To summon a witness for an interview lawfully, a Louisiana prosecutor must file a written motion with the court, and the court—not the district attorney—must issue the subpoena. An official comment to the Code of Criminal Procedure makes it clear that the requirement of court approval before the subpoena is issued exists to prevent “possible abuse” by the district attorney. See La. Code Crim. P. art. 66.

This practice should stop immediately.

2 thoughts on “Orleans Parish DA is Using Fake Subpoenas

  1. Ed Kramer Reply

    It is amazing to me that this could even be considered an acceptable practice by the DA. There are some very fine lawyers who work in the various DA’s offices. However, this seems obviously ‘over the top.’ I read somewhere that this tactic was also used by a prior administration with a cover letter. However, either way, I agree, it should not occur. Thank you for reporting on this.

  2. Dr. Joe Pastorek Reply

    I wonder about the bottom line in this report:

    “Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman, who serves as Cannizzaro’s spokesman, defended the use of the documents, which he called ‘notifications’ or ‘notices.’

    ‘The district attorney does not see any legal issues with respect to this policy,’ he said.”

    It would seem that prosecutors, both at the state and federal level, are fairly immune from prosecution themselves and judges — remember that Cannizzaro is a former judge — give them vast leeway to do whatever they want. And with absolute power . . . well, you know the rest.

    I think this is clearly a matter for the disciplinary boards and the ABA to take a firm stand and make sure justice is served and the playing field is leveled.

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