This book examines a prosecutor’s ethical responsibilities throughout the criminal justice process in both federal and state practice, and explores constitutional and ethical constraints on prosecutorial discretion. Topics are ordered sequentially as they occur in the progression of a typical criminal case, including the prosecutor’s role in the conduct of investigations, contacting and interviewing witnesses, grand jury practice, charging, pre-trial discovery, plea bargaining, jury selection, trial conduct, sentencing, media contacts and post-conviction remedies. The focal point of discussion in each of these areas is a prosecutor’s ethical responsibilities under the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct (through 2019) drawing frequent comparisons to significant state variations on the Model Rules, and supplemental guidance provided by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards: Prosecution Function; the National District Attorneys Standards; and, the Justice Department Manual. The authors also examine constitutional constraints on prosecutorial discretion (particularly under the 5th and 6th Amendments) that at times may deviate from or supplement ethical norms. For the purposes of brevity and ease of reference, the book deviates from the traditional casebook format by summarizing rather than reprinting significant case decisions. Each chapter concludes with practical problems designed to promote class discussion about the appropriate exercise of prosecutorial discretion in hypothetical situations. The book is designed to be used either in a stand-alone seminar on prosecutorial ethics, or as a companion to materials used in a prosecution clinic.

Imprint: West Academic Publishing
Series: Coursebook
Publication Date: 09/09/2019

R. Michael Cassidy, Boston College Law School

Suzanne Valdez, University of Kansas School of Law


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The authors have added a chapter on Conflicts of Interest (Chapter 2), in order to examine the circumstances under which a prosecutor should or must recuse himself, the implications of that decision, and the role of special prosecutors. The authors have also brought the book more fully into the “digital age” by looking closely at a prosecutor’s ethical responsibilities with respect to the use of social media, particularly as it relates to the investigation of jurors, contacting witnesses, and issuing public statements about pending cases. The existing chapter on Providing Timely Discovery to the Accused (Chapter 6) contains a new subsection discussing a prosecutor’s responsibilities pertaining to information contained in police internal affairs files. The authors have revised all chapters to incorporate significant recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court and formal opinions from state and ABA Ethics Committees. Finally, the third edition of Prosecutorial Ethics continues to utilize many current high-profile cases to illustrate constraints on prosecutorial discretion (e.g., the investigation and aborted prosecution of Empire actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago, and the mishandled federal prosecution of New Orleans police officers involved in the Danziger Bridge shootings).

Learn more in our author video.