By DAVID IGNELL
On Dec. 1, I sent a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy requesting the resignation of Attorney General Treg Taylor. For the complete basis of my request, you may read my five-page letter here. For a summary of my letter, please read on.
The Alaska Court Rules of Professional Conduct establish the ethical obligations for all practicing lawyers in our state. For example, the Rules are supposed to prevent lawyers from representing clients if they have a conflict of interest. For instance, when a grand jury is investigating the Department of Law, a lawyer from the department who is subordinate to the officers being investigated can’t be the grand jury’s advisor. Common sense stuff, right?
The Rules are also supposed to place special responsibilities on prosecutors. For instance, Rule 3.8 imposes special duties on them to prevent and rectify the conviction of innocent people, such as disclosing to the court new and credible evidence indicating a person did not commit a crime they were convicted of. Again, this isn’t rocket science.
The final set of Rules falls under the heading, “Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession.” It sounds pretty important, doesn’t it? This is where actions constituting professional misconduct are outlined, and where other lawyers are instructed to report the misconduct of their colleagues. Lawyers are after all, a self-regulating bunch, according to the Rules.
One clear example of misconduct is for a prosecutor and a judge to force an unfair trial where the attorney for the accused is not given an equal opportunity to prepare and present their case. The Rules call a lopsided trial like that a “perversion” and an “obstruction of justice.” The Rules say it undermines public respect for our legal system.
The Rules tell Alaska lawyers their “relative autonomy” carries with it grave responsibilities. They are specifically instructed that “neglect of these responsibilities compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest which it serves.”
Attorney General Treg Taylor is supposed to abide by these Rules. Many citizens would probably agree it is more critical for Taylor to follow his ethical responsibilities than it is for any other lawyer in Alaska. When an attorney general ignores these duties, what message is sent to every other lawyer in the state?
Starting about six weeks ago, I tried to remind Taylor of his ethical responsibilities regarding 1) grand jury investigations in Juneau and Kenai, 2) the wrongful conviction of Thomas Jack Jr., of Hoonah, and 3) the misconduct of the prosecutors and judge that landed an innocent man in jail.
For good measure I copied Dunleavy on my letters to Taylor. Taylor didn’t respond. Neither did Dunleavy.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve brought Dunleavy’s attention to an egregious ethical violation by a high-ranking lawyer within his administration. It wasn’t the first time Dunleavy has ignored me.
Taylor is Dunleavy’s third attempt at trying to find a good apple to serve as Alaska’s attorney general. His first two didn’t pan out too well. Is that a reflection on our governor, the Alaska Bar Association, or both?
When our legal system doesn’t care about its ethical obligations, the public is not only justified in expressing their concerns, but the Rules even predict our angst.
If you think Alaskans are entitled to an attorney general who respects the ethical rules they are supposed to follow, then let Dunleavy know. Liberty and justice depend on you.
David Ignell was born and raised in Juneau, where he currently resides. He holds a law degree from University of San Diego and formerly practiced as a licensed attorney in state and federal courts in California. He is a forensic journalist and author of a recent book on the Alaska Grand Jury.