The Accountability Project

Project Purpose

The Prosecutorial & Judicial Accountability Project at CRC works to hold prosecutors and judges, the most powerful actors in the criminal legal system, accountable for illegal, improper, and/or unethical conduct. 

One of the most obvious contradictions of the criminal legal system is that the power brokers of the system simultaneously demand punishment for alleged violations of law by disempowered poor people but apply no similar microscope and sledgehammer to their own, often much more consequential, transgressions. Though each state has its own system for regulating judges and attorneys, most courts and agencies only rarely issue any corrective action against judges or prosecutors, the two most powerful actors in the criminal legal system.

In this collaborative effort, we partner with advocates and scholars to prepare ethics complaints against prosecutors and judges. The complaints are not based on personal knowledge, but rather analyze, and draw conclusions from, a review of documents, such as court findings, transcripts, media reports, and/or lawyers’ affidavits. 

The complaints call for thorough and transparent investigations into the alleged conduct and for the relevant agency or court to issue appropriate public discipline. Though the complaints are primarily directed toward an individual’s alleged misconduct, they also demand answers to the broader questions that many power brokers wish to avoid, such as whether it is actually institutional and systemic issues that are most responsible for the alleged misconduct.

California

In 2023, law professor Priscilla Ocen filed an ethics complaint to the Presiding Judge of Los Angeles County against Judge Tomson Ong.

New York

Law professors have filed over 45 ethics complaints alleging prosecutorial misconduct in New York.

 

Pennsylvania

In 2023, law professors David Rudovsky (Penn Carey School of Law) and Jules Lobel (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) filed an ethics complaint against Alleghany County District Attorney Stephen Zappala based on two alleged acts of potential misconduct.