Feb. 12, 2020 - Distinguished speakers considered the principles and professional responsibility requirements and considerations associated with a prosecutor's decision of whether to pursue criminal charges against a suspect or not. They also discussed what motivations and biases can drive these decisions in an interactive and wide-ranging panel discussion hosted by Locke Lord in its Houston office.
The Jan. 30 symposium "Prosecutorial Ethics a 360° View" was held in conjunction with the Hunton Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship, presented by the University of Houston Law Center’s Blakely Advocacy Institute. Attendees received 2.5 hours of Texas continuing legal education credit, including 2.5 hours of ethics credit.
The opening speaker, University of Kansas School of Law Professor Suzanne Valdez, shared her thoughts on a prosecutor's ethical responsibilities in both federal and state practice and explored constitutional and ethical constraints on prosecutorial discretion.
Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchel Neurock discussed what motivations, professional responsibility considerations and ethical concerns a prosecutor must take into account when deciding to pursue criminal charges against a potential defendant, and the consequences of those decisions.
"Prosecutorial ethics has always been a hot topic for us," Neurock said. "It's our commitment to do the right thing in every case, no matter what kind of case it is. Our first mandate above all is to do justice.
"Our compass is pointed in one direction, and that's just to make sure we do the right thing by the public. We are not going to have any credibility with members of the public if they cannot trust us to do the right thing. We're super-focused on making sure we make the right decisions for the right reasons."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison, who serves as a Trial Advocacy adjunct professor at the Law Center, shared his views on prosecutorial ethics from a judge's standpoint.
"My view as a new judge is you want to be a referee or an umpire," Edison said. "Call the balls and strikes the way you see them. Do not take one side or the other.
“After practicing cases all over the country, one of the things I have really liked from judges I admire is to be fair, follow the law, avoid the appearance of impropriety or favoritism and rule promptly. I want to stay out of the decision of whether or not to bring charges.”