Monday, July 6, 2015
Prosecutor and police misbehavior is a big problem. Prosecutors have absolute immunity to civil suit, and though police can be sued under civil rights statutes, often the amount at stake is too small to justify that lengthy process. Also, though in theory the criminal process is available, prosecutors are reluctant to use it, since they do not wish to charge themselves and they wish to maintain good relations with police. The problem extends to other government employees too. Lois Lerner and the IRS may have committed federal offenses, but the Obama Justice Department is not going to investigate, or even indict if the facts are public, especially if the White House was involved in the offenses.
How about allowing private prosecutions of government employees? Private prosecutions in general have the problem that we do want prosecutorial discretion very often, even if a crime has been committed, and we want to avoid people using criminal prosecution to harass other people. And, ordinarily we can trust prosecutors to be neutral. But offenses by government employees are different. Especially, it would be useful if a private person could make a motion to indict a prosecutor for obstruction of justice. We do not need to, and should not, give investigatory powers beyond those of civil discovery to the private citizen, but sometimes public information is sufficient.