Ex-prosecutor filing complaint against DA
A former prosecutor in the office of District Attorney Colleen Truden said Friday she is filing an ethics complaint against Truden.In fact, Katherine Steers may have little choice.If Steers feels Truden has committed ethical transgressions, she is legally bound to report her concerns to the Colorado Supreme Court office that handles complaints against attorneys.Steers resigned from Truden’s office Thursday. She accused Truden and assistant district attorney Vince Felleter of abusing their power by making prosecution decisions based on their views about defense attorneys, instead of the case itself and what’s right for the defendant.John Gleason, regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, said any lawyer in Colorado who believes another attorney has engaged in an ethical violation is obligated to report it.Rule 8.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Colorado attorneys reads: “A lawyer having knowledge that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects shall inform the appropriate professional authority.”Steers said, “I have knowledge of what’s going on, so I guess that puts me in the category of someone who at least requests such an investigation.”Gleason said he has no opinion on the merits of Steers’ allegations, but said it would be the job of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel to look into her concerns if she files a grievance.Said Gleason: “If that lawyer believes that this DA engaged in this conduct then she has a duty to report it.”Steers said she contacted Gleason’s office Friday and has begun the process of filing a complaint.Truden has not returned calls for comments since Steers went public with her concerns. In an interview Friday, Felleter said the Supreme Court office is the appropriate forum for hearing Steers’ allegations.”Let’s have that hearing and let’s let the ethics board decide if there was anything wrong. But I assure you that there’s nothing there.”Gleason said the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all lawyers and judges in Colorado. He’s aware of the ongoing attempt to recall Truden, but said his office’s only concern is lawyers’ professional conduct.”The political aspects of it are of no consequence to us. We are not going to involve ourselves in any of that,” he said.When grievances are filed, the response after an investigation can range from dismissal of the grievance, to suspension of the accused attorney, to disbarment. Bob Grant, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys Council, said DAs are required to have a license to practice law.He said he’s not aware of any concerns being raised to the Colorado District Attorneys Council about Truden.Gleason said he isn’t allowed to say whether complaints have been filed against Truden. “I can’t reveal the existence of the complaint until there’s a public proceeding,” he said.Those who file complaints aren’t bound by the same rules of confidentiality, he said.Gleason said no public proceedings are taking place against Truden.Sherry Caloia, a Glenwood Springs attorney heading the recall drive against Truden, said others looked into the possibility of filing a grievance earlier this year because of the belief that Truden had lied about whether her husband had worked for her office. She said her understanding is that the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel responded that unless Truden’s comments were made at a recorded meeting, there was no way to go forward with the complaint and prove she lied.Gleason said while he can’t address specific issues, “our burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence, so that’s a pretty high burden.”He said it’s not unusual for the office to be told of allegations that can’t be substantiated. But his office would never advise against filing a complaint, he said.”Until we investigate it we don’t know what kind of evidence we have,” he said.Gleason said it’s rarely the case that attorneys who fail to meet their duty to report concerns about other attorneys face complaints for violating the rules themselves. Still, Caloia said the requirement to report suspected violations “is a very touchy area for lawyers.””The extent of that obligation is something that all attorneys are very nervous about. It makes us have to make the call of whether or not there was a violation, and in certain cases that’s difficult.”In the case of Steers’ allegations, politically motivated decisions would be hard to prove because so many considerations go into making plea bargain determinations, Caloia said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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