Thursday, April 30, 2020

BREAKING: Arizona Supreme Court Reprimands Juan Martinez For Ethical Misconduct In Three Older Cases (READ Opinion)

In a unanimous 6-0* ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court has reprimanded well-known prosecutor Juan Martinez for ethical misconduct committed in three 10-15 year old murder trials. The reprimand overrides a disciplinary hearing panel's determination that attorneys' ethics rules were not breached by Martinez's comments. The State Bar indicates that it is "pleased" with today's opinion.

Martinez - best known for his prosecutorial role in the Jodi Arias case - was fired by new Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel in March; Martinez has appealed the termination.

The Opinion notes that previous decisions by the Supreme Court in the three murder cases had found that Martinez had acted improperly, but that his comments did not rise to the level of changing the verdicts. Justice John Lopez - writing for the Court - then used the opportunity to explain that there are real distinctions between "prosecutorial misconduct" and "ethical misconduct".

The term “prosecutorial misconduct” broadly encompasses any conduct that infringes a defendant’s constitutional rights. It sweeps in prosecutorial conduct ranging from inadvertent error or innocent mistake to intentional misconduct. Thus, because a prosecutor’s error may not implicate an ethical rule, the Bar’s position blurs the line between prosecutorial misconduct and ethical misconduct.
Justice Lopez also notes that the age of the misconduct instances does not prevent the Court from considering them, as the purpose of the inquiry is to protect the public and the administration of justice. "If anything, what is notable about the age of the claims is the systemic failure to timely scrutinize Martinez’s conduct under the ethical rules."

State Bar spokesman Alberto Rodriguez tells Arizona's Law that they are happy with the Opinion: "The State Bar received the Court’s ruling this morning.  We are pleased with the opinion, and believe that the Court’s reasoning is sound and the outcome fair."

*Former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is now a Supreme Court Justice and thus had to recuse himself.

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