Legal Ethics

AG's Sanctions Request Called ‘Personal Attack’ on Capital Defense Lawyers

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Lawyers for a death-row inmate told the Utah Supreme Court yesterday that a prosecutor’s attempt to obtain sanctions against them had put them at odds with the interests of their client.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker is asking the court to sanction the lawyers for raising 43 issues that were either decided by an earlier appeal or not supported by the facts or the law, report the Associated Press and the Deseret News. The lawyers had filed the appeal on behalf of convicted murderer Michael Anthony Archuleta.

But the lawyers, Edward Brass and Lynn Donaldson, said they must raise all possible claims in an appeal or risk seeing them barred in later court proceedings, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. “That’s our nightmare,” Brass said. He pointed out that he was criticized in an earlier case for failing to do enough.

Richard Mauro, who is representing Donaldson, said a finding that the lawyers violated Rule 11 could make it more difficult to find lawyers to represent capital defendants. He told reporters outside court that the sanctions request “is is a personal attack on lawyers who do this work.”

Brunker, who is not seeking monetary sanctions, told the Associated Press that his request is not part of personal attack.

“We want to use it to curb abusive litigation and filing of these mega petitions,” he said. It’s just slowing it down and we’re trying to stop that. That is our motive.”

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