KPMG Judge Backs Laws to Curb Prosecutors

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York isn’t done making news with his comments on strong-arm prosecution tactics. This time he’s speaking out at a seminar for criminal defense lawyers.

Kaplan is known for his decision to dismiss charges against 13 KPMG defendants because the government pressured the accounting firm to cut off their legal fees. “The imposition of economic punishment by prosecutors, before anyone has been found guilty of anything, is not a legitimate governmental interest—it is an abuse of power,” Kaplan wrote in his original decision.

Now Kaplan says it may be time to reconsider laws that give prosecutors expansive power to pressure companies to cooperate in exchange for leniency, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). “I question whether placing virtually unchecked power in the hands of any branch of government” is the right thing,” he said in comments at a seminar of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Kaplan’s comments “raised eyebrows among some lawyers in attendance,” the newspaper said, because Kaplan is still on the KPMG case. An appeals court chastised a judge in 2001 for making comments to reporters while overseeing a case involving Microsoft Corp.

The ABA also has concerns about Justice Department policies in corporate prosecutions. The association is supporting legislation that would bar federal prosecutors from pressuring companies to waive attorney-client privilege and to take punitive action against employees.

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