Legal Ethics

Immunity Doesn’t Bar Former Justice’s Suit Against Ex-US Attorney, 5th Circuit Rules


A federal appeals court has refused to block a lawsuit contending that former U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton improperly released tax information to an ethics commission about a one-time justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Lampton does not have absolute prosecutorial immunity for forwarding the federal tax records obtained during his unsuccessful prosecution of Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. The Clarion Ledger and the Associated Press have stories on the decision by the New Orleans-based court.

Lampton gave the tax records to the state Commission on Judicial Performance, which dismissed Lampton’s complaint in 2008.

Lampton had argued he was obligated to report alleged judicial misconduct, but the 5th Circuit said he could have filed a complaint without releasing the tax records for Diaz and his wife.

“Lampton is a federal prosecutor with no duty to bring complaints before a state ethics commission, and the actions for which he seeks immunity are unrelated to his prosecution,” the opinion (PDF) by Judge Jerry Smith said. “A prosecutor does not have carte blanche to do as he pleases with the information he can access.”

Diaz contends he defeated of one of Lampton’s friends in a 2000 supreme court race, and that is the reason Lampton prosecuted him. He was acquitted on charges of bribery and tax evasion.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “US Attorney Conspired to Force Miss. Judge Off the Bench, Lawsuit Contends”

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