I am looking for specific cases where a prosecutor was disqualified for making false statements or violated professional conduct rules.

I have seen cases where they were disqualified for conflicts.

  • Duke Lacross scandal is an excellent case study.
    – hszmv
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


Short Answer

I am looking for specific cases where a prosecutor was disqualified for making false statements

I am not aware of any such cases where the judge attempting to do so was not reversed on appeal and rebuked for trying to do so.

Long Answer

Professional Ethics Considerations

The rules of professional conduct in the United States prohibit lawyers, including prosecutors, from making false material statements (of fact in most cases, and of law in some very narrow circumstances).

All U.S. jurisdictions have rules of professional conduct based upon the Model Rules of Professional Conduct promulgated by the American Bar Association and enacted on a state by state basis, sometimes with local modifications of the rules. But, the rules about making false statements are almost completely uniform.

Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3 prohibits making false statements to a tribunal, such as a court.

Rule of Professional Conduct 3.4 prohibits falsification of evidence.

Rule of Professional Conduct 4.1 prohibits making false statements to third-parties to litigation.

There is a Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8 which sets forth duties specific to prosecutors, but that rule contains no provisions about truthfulness since those requirements apply to all lawyers.

Violations of the rules of professional conduct are punished with a public or private censure of a lawyer (i.e. an official rebuke with no other punishment), with suspension from the practice of law for a certain time periods, or with disbarment in extreme cases.

The rules related to truthfulness are not, however, a basis upon which a prosecutor or other lawyer would be barred from participating as a lawyer in a case in any circumstances that I can imagine.

The only usual grounds upon which prosecutors are disqualified from participating in litigation on ethical grounds are conflicts of interest and the "lawyer-witness rule" which prohibits lawyers from serving as trial lawyers and material trial witnesses in the same trial in most circumstances.

Other Considerations

  1. Generally speaking, a lawyer who is not currently disbarred or suspended from the practice of law (even if legal action to obtain that relief is pending) will not be disqualified from serving as a lawyer in a case for making false statements in a case.

I've seen one or two rare cases of cranky sexist federal judges trying to disqualify certain female Department of Justice prosecutors for allegedly making false statements, and being rebuked by appellate courts for doing so. But, I couldn't easily find a link to a case where that happened, which was at least a few years ago.

  1. Prosecutors have absolute immunity from civil liability (i.e. lawsuits) for money damages for their conduct in the course of the judicial process.

  2. Prosecutors can be prosecuted criminally by other prosecutors for violating criminal laws related to fraud in separate lawsuits.

  3. A prosecutor who makes a false statement of case in a courtroom in the course of a case could also be held in contempt of court by the judge and summarily fined or incarcerated (with punishments generally no more serious than a minor misdemeanor criminal offense).

  4. A misrepresentation by a prosecutor, especially one made in closing arguments, can be a basis for setting aside a conviction on appeal, or in a collateral attack on a conviction (such as a habeas corpus petition). Generally, lawyers don't make statements of facts to juries in the course of trials at all.

Non-Judicial Removal Of A Prosecutor From A Case

The prosecutor's boss might want to remove a prosecutor who is caught making a false statement in a court case from the case, because this makes the prosecutor less effective in front of the judge. But, this is an H.R. decision for the prosecutor's office to make, not something that a party in the case can demand that the court require in most cases.

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