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.