When Ethics are an Afterthought
On February 22, 2023, George Gascón violated the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Legal Policy Manual when discussing the case of the man arrested for the murder of Bishop David O’Connell. Office policy states that “[I]nformation shall not be released” to the media and public, which includes “Information regarding a confession, admission or statement” made by the defendant. Despite the policy prohibition, Gascón discussed the alleged confession made by the defendant.
Not only does office policy forbid the statements made by Gascón, the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit prosecutors from making out-of-court statements they know will be publicly disseminated and that have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter. Comments to the ABA rule, on which the California rule is based, singled out revealing the existence or contents of a confession as misconduct because it is likely to have a material prejudicial effect on future proceedings.
These fumbles concluded a rocky week for Gascón, as earlier in the week, he was forced to take the stand and testify in a lawsuit accusing him of retaliating against Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph after she told him some of his “reform” efforts were unethical and illegal.
Gascon testified under oath that the policies he implemented were all legal, notwithstanding the rulings of a Superior Court and California Court of Appeal that some of those policies violated the law and forced prosecutors to violate their ethical obligations if they followed them.
This will be the first of many trips to the stand for Gascón, as there are currently nine separate lawsuits brought by Deputy District Attorneys alleging retaliation by Gascón after they questioned or criticized his policy directives.
Whether it be office policy, state bar rules of professional conduct, or civil service rules, Gascón continues to violate one rule after another, guided not by the law or ethics, but by ideology and politics.