Case of Note: Pottawattamie County, IA v. McGhee (SCOTUS)

On November 4, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Pottawattamie County, IA v. McGhee, which addresses the extent to which prosecutors are immune from civil liability for egregious misconduct such as coercing false testimony from witnesses. Both the trial and appellate courts disagreed with prosecutors’ argument that the doctrine of absolute immunity should protect prosecutors from liability for such conduct.

11/4/09 Update. One of the prosecutors’ arguments in the Pottawattamie County case is that there is “no freestanding constitutional right not to be framed. ” Well, there ought to be.

11/11/09 Update. Here’s a link for the transcript of oral arguments (PDF). (Also added “case summaries” and added to the “additional coverage” list below.)

Case Summaries: (1) SCOTUSwiki, (2) LII / Legal Information Institute.

Additional Coverage (alphabetically by publication)

1/29/10 Revision. Changed category from “Cases of Note” to “Case Law.”

Case of Note: State of Texas v. Bennie Fuelberg

10/9/09 [11/22/09: Added Chris Gunter’s name and bio link]. The Pedernales Electric Cooperative case has been going on for a while but a new issue has come up that caught my attention. In the criminal case against former PEC executive Bennie Fuelberg, the AG’s office is trying to get Fuelberg’s attorney, Chris Gunter, disqualified, claiming that his previous representation of the PEC, as the alleged victim, amounts to representation of an opposing party. For more, see this Statesman article.

The applicable rule is counterintuitive to many people but it’s well-established that, in a criminal cases, the alleged victim is not a party to the lawsuit. Rather, the parties are the State of Texas and the accused. Nonetheless, the AG’s office would like the court to find the opposite in this particular context.

I haven’t had cause to research the issue but I’m skeptical of the AG’s position. Furthermore, I suspect that such an exception would open up a loophole that would be contrary to the interests of the State and alleged victims in general.

11/22/09 Update.  A visiting judge rejected the state’s request to have Bennie Fuelberg’s attorney disqualified. See this Statesman article for more.

1/29/10 Revision.
Changed category from “Cases of Note” to “Case Law.”