Louisiana: a remedy for fake subpoenas?

The district attorney in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which includes the city of New Orleans, pressured witnesses and crime victims into cooperating through the use of fake “subpoenas” warning them of fines or jail time for nonappearance. “The documents were neither authorized by a judge nor issued by a county clerk…. Cannizzaro’s office was producing them itself. Worse yet: Even though the subpoenas were unlawful, he really did jail people who didn’t obey them.” Can they sue him? [Zuri Davis, Reason]

11 Comments

  • It seems that the DA’s actions are criminal. How can the DA legally circumvent a judge and county clerk? Is the DA claiming ignorance? Qualified immunity is lost when laws are broken.

  • Prosecutors have absolute, not qualified immunity. There are a few cases where qualified immunity was applied to prosecutors in cases where they were acting as investigators rather than within there normal duty as prosecutors.

    • Should absolute immunity apply here?

      • My opinion, no immunity should apply to cops or prosecutors ever. That said, based on my read of the cases where prosecutors have gotten qualified immunity: Here, getting courts to issue subpoenas is part of their role as prosecutor. They are not taking on the role of a LEO, so the absolute immunity of the prosecutor would apply, not the LEO’s qualified immunity.

    • There is something very wrong with a system in which a prosecutor has absolute immunity in a case of prosecutorial abuse. That’s his/her job, and it’s being done incorrectly. It’s as if he/she is above the law. Here, there is no deterrent to continued abuses.

      • And to expect people to just be cool with being essentially kidnapped and told there is no remedy is beyond the power of a society to ask from a moral standpoint.

      • Agreed.

        But if you treat it like malpractice for other lawyers, only the client (the government in the case of prosecutors) has standing to complain.

        And even for a civil case, if there is misconduct by the other side’s lawyer, you can complain to the judge and maybe get the lawyer sanctioned. but as far as I know, you can’t wait until the original suit is settled or decided and then file a separate tort suit against the opposing lawyer.

        P = Plaintiff D=Defendant +L=Lawyer

        P sues D In course of the suite PL commits misconduct.

        DL can file complaint on behalf of D before judge for P v D

        P v D is settled or decided.

        P could sue PL for malpractice, but D would have no case against PL

  • Why does this guy still have a law license? And what does that say about the Louisiana Supreme Court?

    This also points up the tension between our desire that the public obey the law and obey lawful authority. At the end of the day, the people subjected to these subpoenas had the absolute right not to obey them, as they were not lawful. But the reality is that cops have guns. What do we do about that as a society? Are we just going to say absolute immunity to the prosecutor that committed what amounts to an act of armed kidnapping? Are we going to give people the right to resist?

    These are profound questions that don’t have to be dealt with if the Louisiana Supreme Court did its job and yanked this guy’s ticket and ordered judges who were presiding over the cases to have show cause hearings. Then people would get actual justice. Without that, we’re just saying that a free people just has to take it.

    And where is law enforcement—this violates all sorts of federal civil rights laws.

  • This is a great improvement. In Orleans Parish, it used to be that the perp was left in a room, and then someone in a pink bunny suit would come in a beat the hell out of the perp — think of Christmas Story meets Friday the Thirteenth. The bunny would leave and the interviewer would return. If the perp didn’t confess, it was repeat and rinse until the perp figured out the system. So, handing someone a fake piece of paper appears to be a great leap forward.

  • You’se guys crack me up:

    1. The New Orleans Mayor, and her husband owe $95,000 in unpaid taxes to the IRS. Nobody but the media seems to have a problem with it.

    2. The DA has been has been issuing fake subpoenas for years. Nobody but the media seem to have a problem with it.

    These are like slow news day things. But…

    3. Louisiana’s political subdivision are parish, not county. Sheesh, what ever happened to accuracy in the media?

    PS – Mardi Gras parades start this Friday, y’all come on down and pass a good time, bring your money, but leave your good sense at home!

    • #3 No one in the US outside of Louisiana understands Napolionic law and/or the political subdivisions that stem from it. Aside from outside media not getting it, even if they did, their readers/viewers wouldn’t get it. A Parish is the equivalent of a county anywhere else in the US, so they use the term their readers understand.

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