on Dec 16, 2011 at 11:27 am
Those following the ongoing saga of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office, which has been the subject of multiple claims of misconduct and three recent Supreme Court cases, will be interested in Fordham Law Review’s symposium on official and municipal liability. The symposium included a panel devoted to the Court’s recent decision in Connick v. Thompson, which held that the municipality could not be held liable for failure to train its prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence on the basis of a single proven violation of that obligation. (Although the office had committed several such violations, none related to the specific failure to disclose a crime lab report regarding blood type evidence at issue in Thompson.) Among the panelists were Professor Margaret Johns, Professor Daniel Richman, Paul Clement, Gordon Cooney, and Joel Rudin. A second panel discussed liability and remedies in suits against municipalities, and includes a powerful essay on the Thompson case by Professor Susan Bandes.
The conduct of the Orleans Parish prosecutors is on the Court’s agenda again this year. In November, the Court heard oral argument in Smith v. Cain, and by all accounts the Justices seemed deeply troubled by that office’s record of Brady violations, as well as by its decision to litigate the issue rather than confess error. (This blog’s recap of the argument is entitled “Disaster at the Lectern,” which says it all.) As others have noted, Smith seems at odds with Thompson‘s conclusion that the office did not have a sufficiently consistent record of misconduct to justify liability. In any case, it appears that the Court has run out of patience with Orleans Parish prosecutors. Let’s hope there is no need for a fourth Supreme Court case on this subject anytime soon.