Bar Associations

Former NC justice calls for outside review of state bar, says it's divided into 'two extreme camps'

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A former justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court says the state bar is divided into “two extreme camps” and he believed an outside review is needed.

Former Justice Bob Orr tells the Raleigh News & Observer that one camp in the state bar is more supportive of prosecutors and the other is more supportive of defense lawyers. Orr says many state bar lawyers are former prosecutors, and he questions whether this is the reason the bar has pursued defense lawyers in discipline cases.

Orr is a member of a committee examining legal professionalism as part of a review of the state justice system initiated by the state’s chief justice. Orr says he hopes the study will call for an external evaluation of the state bar.

The state bar has pursued discipline cases against three lawyers who worked on Racial Justice Act and innocence cases. Two of the cases were dismissed and the other produced an admonition.

Duke University law professor James Coleman Jr., co-director of the law school’s wrongful convictions clinic, raises questions about the discipline system’s treatment of prosecutors and defense lawyers in a separate story by the Raleigh News & Observer.

Coleman said he filed complaints against three prosecutors for allegedly citing a false affidavit, but the bar’s grievance committee privately dismissed the complaints.

In the affidavit, a police detective asserted that an assault victim told her on the night of the attack that her attacker was black. The detective made the assertion more than 12 years after the crime, and in her original report she said the victim was incoherent and said nothing about her attacker, Coleman says. Police pursued white suspects before prosecuting Coleman’s client, a black man who was convicted in 1997.

The police detective later said her memory could be wrong, and police should rely on her original records. Yet prosecutors cited the affidavit in a meeting with an FBI agent who reviewed the case, Coleman said.

A lawyer for the prosecutors says the affidavit was never used in court or introduced into evidence, so there was no misconduct. The assault victim is blind and brain-damaged.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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