Legal Ethics

District attorney should be disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct, state bar court recommends

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The State Bar Court of California has recommended that Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Michael Alexander, who already had been disciplined three times in the past, be disbarred, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In its opinion (PDF), the bar court found that Alexander, reportedly the state’s first sitting prosecutor to face disciplinary charges, abused his prosecutorial power by speaking with a criminal defendant about her case without her lawyer present; and after learning from her that she, not her co-defendant, owned the illegal drugs found during their arrest, failed to give that exculpatory evidence to the other defendant’s lawyer; then lied to an assistant DA by saying he had not spoken with the defendant (who had recorded the conversation).

Alexander has been widely respected for once beating his own addiction to methamphetamines and later working extensively in helping other addicts—he started the first 12-step program in Del Norte County for juveniles.

At an eight-day bar hearing in October, witnesses—including judges, lawyers, mayors, community leaders, politicians, law enforcement officers, social workers and others—testified to Alexander’s good character.

Noting that some of them traveled a long way to do so, the bar court Judge Lucy Armendariz wrote that “they invariably dismissed respondent’s misconduct as either insignificant or not at all unethical. Many did not comprehend its egregiousness.”

The bar court dismissed charges against Alexander concerning loans he made and received before taking the position: $14,000 to a probation officer who sometimes worked cases he had as a public defender; $6,000 from a criminal defense lawyer who once Alexander took the DA position, would be dunning him to dismiss a case and represented Alexander in an earlier bar discipline case. The bar court found bad judgment but no moral turpitude in those matters.

Armendariz not only found the earlier discipline matters aggravating, she noted that in the most recent one Alexander “demonstrated lack of insight into his wrongdoing. He blames others for his ethical and professional lapses, including outside political forces and the State Bar.”

The California Supreme Court will review the judge’s recommendation, but Alexander has for now, as of April 7, been deemed “not eligible to practice law” by the state bar.

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