Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hearing Officer Recommends that Formal Disciplinary Charges Against Carl Brizzi Be Dropped

Former Marion County
Prosecutor Carl Brizzi
Although I haven't found anything on the Clerk of the Supreme Court's website, Fox59 is reporting that the hearing officer investigating formal disciplinary charges against Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi is recommending that those charges be dropped:
A judge has recommended that disciplinary charges against former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi be dropped.

Judge Charles O'Connor Jr., the hearing officer in the case, sent a 15-page briefing to the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission recommending Brizzi be cleared of all charges.

A 2009 complaint by the commission accused Brizzi of making improper comments about two defendants facing seven counts of murder in the city's worst mass murder and about an Illinois trucker suspected of killing an Indianapolis woman.
I agree with this recommendation.  I think the disciplinary rules need to recognize that we attorneys don't completely forfeit our free speech rights when we become members of the bar.  While Brizzi had the added ethical obligations as a prosecutor, he also had added responsibilities to communicate as an elected official to the public.  What Brizzi said didn't appear to be much different from what other prosecutors say all the time.  When we start picking and choosing what a prosecutor can say and not say, we're going into a very gray area that is going to result in the creation of mushy precedent that leaves no clear guidelines.  I think it's better to just let free speech happen and deal with the consequences.  In Brizzi's case, the claim was he was trying to taint the jury.  If that is indeed true, let trial judges deal with that by venuing the case out of the county rather than turn it into a disciplinary matter.

I remember working for Judge Paul Buchanan at the Court of Appeals, when an appellate attorney, unhappy with a decision, referred to the three judge panel in a rehearing brief by a derogatory nickname, something like "The Grumpy Old Man and the Two Ladies."   We clerks showed the brief to Judge Buchanan.  I expected him to be outraged and possibly refer the attorney to the disciplinary commission.  You know what Judge Buchanan did?  He laughed.  He said the attorney was just blowing off steam and it was no big deal.  Judge Buchanan told me that putting on a robe does not put a judge above criticism from attorneys, even when that criticism isn't politely stated.  That was about 1993.  Today, I wouldn't be surprised if that attorney were suspended for several months.

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