Former ACLU lawyer should not have been removed as grand juror, appeals court rules
A former lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union was wrongly removed as a grand jury member after the prosecutor complained about his participation in a lawsuit against his office, a Missouri appeals court has ruled.
In a decision (PDF) issued Friday, the appeals court said Judge Steven Goldman of St. Louis County failed to develop an adequate record justifying dismissal of the lawyer, who was never questioned under oath about the purported conflict. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered the decision in a story noted by the Washington Post blog The Watch.
The lawyer used the name John Roe in a petition for a writ of prohibition seeking his reinstatement as a grand juror. Roe had contended Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch was mistaken about Roe’s involvement in a suit over the prosecutor’s handling of the grand jury that declined to indict a Ferguson police officer in the death of Michael Brown.
The appeals court said the secrecy and independence of the grand jury had been compromised by filings by both parties in the case. The grand jury should be dissolved, the court said, and a new grand jury should be empaneled to take its place. According to the Post-Dispatch, Roe’s actual name was accidentally revealed in some court filings.
The appeals court said it ruled based on the transcript of the hearing in which Goldman removed Roe as a grand juror, and not on additional material in court filings. Roe had alleged in court documents that McCulloch’s office may have been spying on the grand jury, though Roe “offered no hard evidence,” according to a prior story by the Post-Dispatch.