Boston University School of Law

JD806 Prosecutorial Ethics (S)

JD 806 ( A1)  W 2:10 PM-4:10 PM 
3 cr., Fall 
Professor Breen 
No Class Website
 

United States Attorney (and later Supreme Court Justice) Robert Jackson noted in a speech that a "prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America." This seminar will analyze the unique role, power, and responsibilities of the prosecutor in the United States criminal justice system. How does a prosecutor balance her duty to "seek justice" and her role as a "minister of justice" within an adversarial system? Does public pressure (perceived or real) to obtain convictions and solve crimes have an impact on prosecutors' actions? Throughout this course, we will examine the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the Model Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Standards of Criminal Justice as they apply to criminal attorneys in general and prosecutors in particular. How do the rules and case law demonstrate that a criminal prosecutor is different from a criminal defense attorney or civil attorney? We will study the ethical implications and constraints placed on prosecutors, as well as the unique power that they hold at various stages of a criminal case. We will examine the means by which a prosecutor exercises discretion from the investigation of alleged crimes to the decision to charge (or not charge), and through the conduct of trials, as well as post-trial obligations. We will address such topics as: What is the prosecutor's obligation to the police and/or alleged victims of crimes? What duty does a prosecutor owe to a criminal defendant? What restrictions are placed on a prosecutor at trial that do not exist for defense attorneys? We will also study some specific contemporary and historical cases that have raised questions about the ethical conduct of prosecutors, including (but not limited to) the so-called Duke Lacrosse case, the Dominque Strauss-Kahn matter, and the prosecution of United States Senator Ted Stevens and the subsequent findings of prosecutorial misconduct therein. NOTE: This seminar satisfies the Professional Responsibility requirement. While there are no required prerequisites for taking this course, students should be prepared that some basic principles of Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Trial Advocacy will necessarily be a focus of some of our discussions. ENROLLMENT LIMIT: 18 students. GRADING NOTICE: This seminar is NOT offered as CR/NC/H. ** A student who fails to attend the initial meeting of a seminar (designated by an (S) in the title), or to obtain permission to be absent from either the instructor or the Registrar, may be administratively dropped from the seminar. Students who are on a wait list for a seminar are required to attend the first seminar meeting to be considered for enrollment.