U.S. prosecutors can’t be sued successfully for actions like hiding evidence that could prove someone’s innocence or violating basic rules designed to make sure trials are fair, says USA Today. Nearly 35 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits over how they handle criminal cases in court, no matter how serious or obvious the abuses. Today, in a case involving a New Orleans man who came within a month of being executed for a murder he didn’t commit, the Supreme Court will consider another aspect of prosecutorial immunity: whether people who were wrongly convicted can take local prosecutors’ offices to court.
The court’s answer could determine the extent to which prosecutors’ employers are also shielded if they fail to make sure attorneys comply with their constitutional responsibilities. “Prosecutorial misconduct is a serious problem, and nothing is being done to adequately address it,” said Kathleen Ridolfi of the Northern California Innocence Project, which issued a study Monday that found hundreds of instances of misconduct by state and federal attorneys. “Prosecutors know  they can commit misconduct with impunity.” USA Today recently documented 201 cases since 1997 in which judges determined that federal prosecutors had violated laws or ethics rules. None resulted in a successful lawsuit against a prosecutor.