We Act When Prosecutors Fail To Protect Defendants’ Rights
The Supreme Court has instructed that a prosecutor’s goal should be to do justice, whether that results in a conviction or an acquittal. But too often, prosecutors are so determined to win that they break the rules intended to guarantee everyone a fair trial. Most of the time, prosecutors have immunity against civil lawsuits for their misconduct. However, our law firm has been a groundbreaker in finding ways to win compensation for our clients despite prosecutorial immunity.
Types Of Prosecutorial Misconduct Cases We Handle
We handle a variety of claims relating to prosecutorial misconduct, including:
- Brady violations, where a prosecutor withheld evidence favorable to the defense knowing reliance at trial on false or misleading evidence or argument
- The falsification or manufacturing of evidence during the investigation of the case, for which a prosecutor has the same liability as a police detective
- Unlawful search, arrest or seizure, where the prosecutor approved illegal action by police
- Claims brought in the New York State Court of Claims under the New York state Unjust Conviction Act, in which the plaintiff must show his or her conviction was overturned on grounds related to his or her innocence and that he or she is in fact innocent
A Proven Record Of Success
In 2014, our office won a combined $13 million settlement from New York City for prosecutorial misconduct that caused Jabbar Collins to serve 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. At the time, it was the largest combined settlement for a wrongfully convicted man in New York City history. The Collins case exposed 24 years of misconduct at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and helped bring about the defeat of the District Attorney, Charles Hynes, in 2013, when he ran for a seventh term in office.
In Ramos v. City of New York , 285 A.D.2d 284 (1st Dept. 2001), our office won the most important New York state appellate decision upholding the right of a wrongfully convicted criminal defendant to sue the city of New York for the misconduct of the prosecutor. The court ruled that our client was entitled to sue New York City for the prosecutor’s hiding of exculpatory evidence because the misconduct resulted from a long history of indifference by the Bronx district attorney to dozens of cases of similar misconduct. The appellate court entered an unprecedented order directing New York City to disclose the personnel records of prosecutors involved in 72 cases of misconduct. The records, never before obtained in any other civil case in New York, proved the district attorney’s indifference: the Office had disciplined none of the prosecutors involved in these cases.
In 2003, based upon this evidence, Mr. Rudin won Mr. Ramos a settlement of $5 million, at that time the largest recovery ever in New York state for a wrongful conviction. Based upon the approach that succeeded in the Ramos case, our office later won settlements from New York City for other wrongfully convicted clients of $10 million, $9.7 million, $4.4 million, $3.5 million and $3.1 million. For most of these clients, we recovered additional amounts from New York state under the Unjust Conviction Act.
Our law office also won the leading decision in New York making it possible to sue individual prosecutors personally for their misconduct in the investigation of a criminal case. Zaher Zahrey was a New York City police detective who had been accused of drug-related violent activities. Represented by Mr. Rudin, he was acquitted after a six-week federal criminal trial, and then, still represented by our firm, sued the prosecutors and detectives who had been responsible. In Zahrey v. Coffey , 221 F.3d 442 (2d Cir. 2000), the United States Court of Appeals upheld the lawsuit. It reasoned that, even though a prosecutor has immunity for using false evidence during a criminal prosecution, he does not have immunity, and may be sued, for helping to manufacture the false evidence while the case was still under investigation.
In 2010, our office succeeded in settling the Zahrey case for a total of $2.25 million in damages and attorneys’ fees. The settlement included unprecedented personal judgments against leading prosecutors in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, as well as high-level police officials, one of whom is currently the chief of detectives for the New York City Police Department.
Mr. Rudin has written extensively about the subject of how to overcome prosecutorial immunity and win damage lawsuits for prosecutorial misconduct. His article, ” Suing for Prosecutorial Misconduct,” appeared in the March 2010 issue of The Champion, the publication of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He also published an article in the November, 2011, edition of the Fordham Law Review, entitled, ” The Supreme Court Assumes Errant Prosecutors Will Be Disciplined By Their Offices Or The Bar: Three Case Studies That Prove That Assumption Wrong.” The article is based upon the results of the lawsuits Mr. Rudin and our office have handled demonstrating indifference by district attorneys in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx to misconduct by their prosecutors. Mr. Rudin testified about the same issue before the New York State Bar Association Task Force on Wrongful Convictions.
Based upon Mr. Rudin’s expertise in this area, he was asked by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”) to prepare and file amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court supporting lawsuits over prosecutorial misconduct, and has spoken on this issue at conferences or classes at New York University, Fordham, and Brooklyn Law School and at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He is a member of the Discovery Reform Task Force of the NACDL and the Wrongful Convictions Committee of the New York State Bar Association.