Misbehaving Federal Prosecutors Rarely Lose Their Jobs


Stephen Kunz, a federal prosecutor in Florida who was sanctioned $1.5 million for mishanding a case, was hired in another federal prosecutor’s office, says USA Today. The newspaper says that prosecutors have little reason to fear losing their jobs even if they violate laws or constitutional safeguards designed to ensure the justice system is fair. The Justice Department conceals its own investigations of misconduct from the public.

That secrecy makes it almost impossible to assess the full extent and impact of misconduct by prosecutors or the effectiveness of the department’s attempts to deter it. A Justice Department spokesperson criticized USA Today for a “selective review of a handful” of cases over 18 years. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the agency is moving to make sure it can more effectively prevent misconduct and better train prosecutors about the complex rules they must follow. For years, however, says Joseph DeGenova, a former U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., the government allowed lawyers “who should not be federal prosecutors to continue in that role. The record on discipline is very, very poor. The history of serious discipline is basically non-existent.” USA Today documented 201 cases since 1997 in which courts found that federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules.

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