Tuesday, March 29, 2011


5-4 per Justice Thomas in Connick v. Thompson:

Held: A district attorney’s office may not be held liable under §1983 for failure to train its prosecutors based on a single Brady violation.

One reason given is that lawyers learn enough about Brady from law school and the bar exam. Justice Ginsburg for the dissenters rightfully blasts this: The Court nevertheless holds Canton’s example inapposite. It maintains that professional obligations, ethics rules, and training—including on-the-job training—set attorneys apart from other municipal employees, includingrookie police officers. Ante, at 12–15. Connick “had every incentive at trial to attempt to establish” that he could reasonably rely on the professional education and status of his staff. Cf. ante, at 10, n. 6. But the jury heard and rejected his argument to that effect. Tr. 364, 576–577, 834–835.

The Court advances Connick’s argument with greater clarity, but with no greater support. On what basis can one be confident that law schools acquaint students with prosecutors’ unique obligation under Brady? Whittaker told the jury he did not recall covering Brady in his criminal procedure class in law school. Tr. 335. Dubelier’s alma mater, like most other law faculties, does not make criminal procedure a required course. Connick suggested that the bar examination ensures that new attorneys will know what Brady demands. Tr. 835. Research indicates, however, that from 1980 to the present, Brady questions have not accounted for even 10% of the total points in the criminal law and procedure section of any administration of the Louisiana Bar Examination. A person sitting for the Louisiana Bar Examination, moreover, need pass only five of the exam’s nine sections.23 One can qualify for admission to the professionwith no showing of even passing knowledge of criminal law and procedure.

The majority’s suggestion that lawyers do not need Brady training because they “are equipped with the tools to find, interpret, and apply legal principles,” ante, at 17– 18, “blinks reality” and is belied by the facts of this case. See Brief for Former Federal Civil Rights Officials and Prosecutors as Amici Curiae 13. Connick himself recog-nized that his prosecutors, because of their inexperience, were not so equipped. Indeed, “understanding and com-plying with Brady obligations are not easy tasks, and theappropriate way to resolve Brady issues is not always self-evident.” Brief for Former Federal Civil Rights Officials and Prosecutors as Amici Curiae 6. “Brady compliance,”therefore, “is too much at risk, and too fundamental to the fairness of our criminal justice system, to be taken for granted,” and “training remains critical.” Id., at 3, 7.

Here's the AP article.


Anonymous said...

Thomas is right on this one. Blind squirrel etc. U cant sue for inadequate training like this where u basically have a rogue prosecutor who engages in bad faith. Thats what bar grievances are fo r, not monell 1983 actions.

Anonymous said...

Believable. Regrettably.

Anonymous said...

Liuzza's had great po-boys back in the day.

Anonymous said...

USA Today has an ongoing multi-part series on prosecutorial misconduct based on an investigation by a group of practitioners documenting 201 criminal cases across the nation in which federal judges found that prosecutors broke the rules.

If you click "Explore Map" it breaks down each of the cases by district with a description of the misconduct and prosecutors involved.