ABA Criminal Justice Section launches Prosecutorial Independence Task Force

The Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association recently announced the creation of the Task Force for Prosecutorial Independence to preserve and strengthen prosecutorial independence and enhance the American public’s understanding of the prosecutor’s critical role in maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Co-chaired by John Choi, attorney for Ramsey County in Saint Paul, Minn.; Ellen S. Podgor, the Gary R. Trombley Family White Collar Crime Research Professor at the Stetson University College of Law; and Ellen Yaroshefsky, the Howard Lichtenstein Distinguished Professor of Legal Ethics at the Maurice A Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, the 24-member task force is comprised of a diverse group of prosecutors, defenders, legal scholars and others with expertise in the criminal justice system from across the country and across the political spectrum. Sara Alpert Lawson of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is the reporter.

The task force will be assisted by an advisory board composed of national leaders, including former U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson.

“The ABA Criminal Justice Section works to preserve the independence and exercise of discretion of locally elected prosecutors, which is a cornerstone of our justice system,” Choi said.

“The Task Force on Prosecutorial Independence was created to reinforce, promote and educate the public about the importance of prosecutorial independence.”

The task force’s formation follows the adoption on Feb. 5 of Criminal Justice Section Resolution 501 by the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Louisville.

Resolution 501 “urges state, local, territory and tribal officials to adhere to the ABA Criminal Justice Standards for the Prosecution Function to affirm the essential role of prosecutorial discretion and independence in the criminal justice process, to respect the independence and discretion inherent in the prosecutorial function and to provide that removal, suspension or substitution of an elected or appointed prosecutor should not be permitted” for improper or personal reasons.

The resolution also calls on officials to establish written standards that ensure prosecutors are afforded due process.

For additional information on the task force, visit www.americanbar.org/groups/criminal_justice/committees/taskforces/prosecutorial-independence.