Friday, May 25, 2007
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of ethics charges against a former District and Assistant District Attorney who were alleged to have made promises to a witness in a murder case and withheld the information from defense counsel and the trial court. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to death. The conviction was reversed when the information surfaced. The court here held that two of the charges of ethical misconduct were time barred. A third charge was found to not state a claim of an ethical violation.
Most jurisdictions do not have a statute of limitations for ethical complaints. Because the law license is a continuing proclamation of the court's confidence in the attorney's fitness to practice, limitations are deemed detrimental to the integrity of the legal profession and the public interest in an ethical bar. The disposition of this case makes the point. As North Carolina has a history of leniency for prosecutorial misconduct, it will be interesting to see how the Nifong charges are resolved. (Mike Frisch)