Radley Balko is now officially with the Washington Post and one of his first articles is about one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard. The Center for Prosecutor Integrity has created a database that they hope will eventually contain every single instance of prosecutorial misconduct in the country.
Even when courts find misconduct—even egregious misconduct—they rarely name the offending prosecutor. In fact, prosecutors’ names rarely appear on court decisions at all. Likewise, most state bar investigations of prosecutor misconduct are also kept confidential. That may seem sensible, given that the allegations may turn out to be baseless. But that of course stands in stark contrast to the fact that the people prosecutors accuse of crimes aren’t afforded the same courtesy. Even when a prosecutor is found to have committed misconduct and is sanctioned in some way, some states still keep the entire affair confidential. You could make a convincing argument that prosecutors are better protected from wrongful misconduct allegations than citizens are from wrongful convictions.
At the federal level, the Department of Justice usually conceals internal investigations of federal prosecutors. As a journalist, this is frustrating because it makes it difficult to suss out repeat offenders. In the end, we’re reliant on professional organizations to sanction their own, and there’s ample evidence that these organizations just aren’t up to the task.Now for some good news: A nonprofit reform group called the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI) has just launched a new registry of prosecutor misconduct. It’s searchable by name, case, date, and several other variables. It also looks to providesome interesting data breaking down misconduct by infraction, region, and so on. So far, the database only includes 200 recent incidents from federal cases, but CPI “plans to expand the Registry to include all known cases of prosecutorial misconduct.” They’re currently looking for partners in individual states to help populate the database with new cases.
It’s clear at this point that the courts, state bars, and federal government have little interest in bringing any transparency to this problem. If it’s going to happen, it will probably need to come from private actors. The new registry seems like a good start.
It certainly does. This is a brilliant idea.