NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A legal advocacy organization filed an ethics complaint against the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office for issuing fake subpoenas.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is calling on the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board to investigate to DA's office for issuing subpoenas that threatened witnesses with fines and jail time to coerce them into answering prosecutors' questions.
The complaint was filed Thursday.
An investigation is needed to determine the scope of the practice and to hold the lawyers involved accountable for violations of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct, which forbid lawyers from engaging in deception, according to the complaint.
The filing notes that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has admitted that his office had engaged in the practice since 2009, but has refused to divulge which assistant district attorneys were also involved.
If the board finds that violations occurred, it could recommend probation, admonition or the filing of formal charges against Cannizzaro or the attorneys under his leadership who used the fake subpoenas.
Cannizzaro's office initially defended the documents, but later announced it would stop issuing them.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman said his office did not get a copy of the ethics complaint. All they know about is what is in the press release. Once they are officially notified of the complaint, the district attorney may respond, Bowman said.