DA BOSTON LEADS EFFORT TO REVISE STATE BAR RULES OF CONDUCT GOVERNING PROSECUTOR BEHAVIOR, STIFFENING PENALTIES FOR VIOLATORS
March 23, 2021
Move Aims to Strengthen Accountability and Build Public Trust
Decatur, Ga.- The State Bar of Georgia is considering major revisions to one of its Rules of Professional Conduct governing prosecutor behavior and responsibilities, a change that could lead to disbarment for those who fail to comply. The effort is being led by DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston in conjunction with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, which represents the interests of the State’s elected District Attorneys and Solicitors-General.
During a weekend convening, the State Bar’s Board of Governors, the agency’s governing arm, overwhelmingly approved revisions to Rule 3.8 Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor. The updated language stiffens penalties for those who fail to promptly disclose exculpatory evidence, increasing the maximum penalty from public reprimand to disbarment. The revision mirrors standards set forth by the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct for Prosecutors, and also places a stronger emphasis on prosecutors’ obligation to proactively seek to remedy wrongful convictions within their jurisdictions by initiating or forwarding cases for additional investigation as warranted by emerging facts and evidence.
DA Boston chaired the committee overseeing the revisions. It was formed during the summer of 2020 amid a period of social unrest and calls for criminal justice reform, along with greater prosecutor scrutiny and accountability across the nation. “Prosecutors wield an enormous amount of power and discretion— tools which must be used wisely in a fair and equitable manner for all involved parties,” said Boston. “The bridge to greater community trust, confidence in our work, and ultimately more just outcomes, begins with us taking more aggressive steps to hold ourselves to the highest of standards. The time for change is now.”
“I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Georgia’s prosecutors as we work with the State Bar of Georgia to strengthen Rule 3.8 of the Professional Rules of Conduct,” said Pete Skandalakis, Executive Director for the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “Georgia’s prosecution community is full of prosecutors who consider it a privilege to represent our State and want nothing more than to seek the truth for crime victims and offenders alike. The unethical actions of a few tarnish the great work of the many serving honorably all over our State, and this initiative speaks to the calling of our profession to exceed the expectations that our communities hold for us and that we hold for ourselves.”
The move is also being praised by members of the Defense community.
“Wrongful convictions are injustices that destroy the lives of innocent people,” said Attorney Seth Kirschenbaum of Davis, Zipperman, Kirschenbaum & Lotito, LLP. “Prosecutors have an ethical and moral duty to prevent or right such wrongs. I commend the elected District Attorneys and Solicitors-General of Georgia for their visionary leadership in proposing this long overdue revision to the ethical rules.”
The revisions will be placed on the State Bar’s website for public review and comment for up to 60 days before being forwarded to the Supreme Court of Georgia for final adoption.