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A prosecutor who wants justice will walk that walk, not the contemptuous path

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“The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.” American Bar Association’s standards for prosecutors, Standard 3-1.2(c).

Some prosecutors apply that principle so well that when they later switch to private law practice, their criminal defense lawyer colleagues welcome them into the fold, and gladly return their phone calls and emails seeking thoughts on developing winning case defenses and succeeding in private practice.

Unfortunately, too many prosecutors take a starkly different approach, sometimes to the point of complete know-it-all arrogance, closed ears and eyes to any evidence or arguments offered by the defense in settlement negotiations, acceptance of the words of police and prosecution witnesses as the gospel, and heartless contempt and dismissiveness of criminal defendants and their lawyers at all turns.

To the prosecutors reading today’s blog entry, you know in which of the above categories you most closely fit. If you fit in the first category, congratulations. May you be a light among your colleagues, office staff, police officers, and civilian prosecution witnesses.

To the prosecutors who fit in the second category, how about trying the first category for a day, or a week? You may just like it and stick with it. By fully following the first category, you will find your job becomes easier and your work more successful. Your opposing lawyers will notice and welcome the change in you. Your work will become more pleasant as a result without your having weakened yourself at all. In fact, by following the first category, you will have strengthened yourself by gaining credibility with opposing lawyers and judges for opening your mind and unclenching your unnecessarily postured jaw.

In fact, when you as a prosecutor start engaging fully and openly in case conversations with your opposing lawyers, you will find the opposing lawyers relaxing and providing you more useful intelligence than if the lawyer were staying fully on guard against your previously-earned reputation of cold grandstanding.

Praised be police trainer and former prosecutor Val Van Brocklin  who encourages police to talk with criminal defense lawyers about their cases without necessitating the permission nor presence of prosecutors, because police should have nothing to hide so long as they have performed their duties honorably. The same goes for prosecutors.

A high school biology teacher one day talked about the ugly harm of smoking, and gave the good news that said harm immediately starts reversing once the smoker stops smoking. By imperfect analogy, even the prosecutor who is among the most disliked by criminal defense lawyers will experience a wonderful shift in criminal defense lawyers’ and judges’ attitudes to them, by simply following the first category of prosecutors. I, for one, will be happy to welcome you to that shift. The choice is  yours.