Prosecutors are blogging. Kern County, Ca., District Attorney Ed Jagels, Santa Clara County, Ca.’s recently retired head prosecutor, San Diego’s city attorney, and the lead prosecutor in Fayette County, Ky., are among those who also have waged online campaigns tackling issues ranging from news coverage and court decisions to politics and their own accomplishments, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The trend raises questions about ethical impropriety and legality as well as plain common sense.
Those concerns are particularly acute, experts say, if prosecutors are commenting on pending cases. They warn that these public officials may be opening themselves up to lawsuits and appeals — which taxpayers would end up paying for. “Prosecutors are supposed to stay above the fray. They have to give the public the idea that they are impartial, unbiased,” said attorney Diane Karpman, who writes an ethics column for the California Bar Journal. Blogging could impair their “ability to prosecute cases in a fair and objective manner,” she said. Some journalists, public relations experts and other attorneys counter that prosecutors have a First Amendment right to publish their opinions — but question the wisdom of their doing so. George Kennedy, district attorney of Santa Clara County until his term ended last month, has been criticizing an award-winning San Jose Mercury News series, “Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice,” which detailed problems in the county criminal justice system. Legal scholars said prosecutors’ blogs could provide an opening for a defense attorney to have them thrown off cases.