Assistant district attorneys have been in the news recently but not in a good way. A Bronx prosecutor is facing a DWI charge while a Niagara County ADA was terminated after being accused of Aggravated Harassment and Stalking. The Bronx prosecutor, Jennifer Troiano, was moved to the Appeals Bureau, the Daily News reported. That paper characterized the move as a "demotion" to the District Attorney's Office's "Rubber Room." An unknown source told the News, "Problematic prosecutors get buried there." I was very surprised to read this characterization. In my time in the Appeals Bureau in the Bronx, I found my fellow attorneys to be the best and brightest of the office—fantastic writers who knew every inch of the Penal Law and CPL. It was not a dumping ground for "problematic prosecutors" as the unnamed source in the News claims.
These cases raise a bigger issue, though, about what chief prosecutors should do if one of their assistants is arrested. The arrest triggers all sorts of problems, including potential conflicts of interest, implications for police-prosecutor relations, credibility with the court, and public perception. On the other hand, the accused has certain rights, first and foremost being the presumption of innocence. It seems like the best course of action is to follow the practice used by most police departments in this type of situation: either suspend with pay or put the person on administrative duty. But appellate work is not what I mean by "administrative duty." It is real, substantive work and the People deserve ADAs handling it to be focused and effective. A prosecutor with charges of his or her own should be working the photocopier, not handling cases of any kind. (LC)