Federal prosecutors who violate laws or cut corners to win convictions face almost no risk of losing their ability to practice law, says USA Today. Congress in 1998 gave state regulators who oversee lawyers the authority to discipline U.S. Justice Department prosecutors when they violate laws or state ethics rules.
Only six prosecutors have been disciplined since 1997. State regulators are considering disciplinary action in at least two other cases. Even when state bar officials take action, it is uncommon for them to take away a federal prosecutor’s law license, even temporarily. USA Today identified only two federal prosecutors who had their licenses suspended for even brief periods as a result of their handling of a criminal case. One reason disciplinary actions are rare: regulators may find that the violations were not deliberate. “Many violations found by the courts are not malicious evil wrongdoing,” says Bill Weigel of the National Organization of Bar Counsel, an association of state disciplinary officials. “People can lose their judgment in the heat of battle.” A recent study by the Northern California Innocence Project found California authorities disciplined only about 1% of prosecutors who courts ruled had committed misconduct.