The former chief drug prosecutor for Wayne County, Michigan has been disbarred for her role in soliciting false testimony. Former Wayne County assistant prosecutor Karen Plants had originally been suspended for only two years, but the Attorney Discipline Board on reconsideration bumped the penalty up to full disbarment on reconsideration of her case due to her “lack of reflection.”
After the order of the two year suspension, the Grievance Administrator filed a petition for review and the higher penalty was imposed.
The case began with the case against Alexander Aceval and Ricardo Pena. Ms. Plants was the assistant prosecutor in charge of that case and presented Mr. Chad Povish as a witness. She withheld information from the defense, including the fact that Povish was as a paid confidential informant. The opinion below details a series of false statements made by the witness with the full knowledge of Plant. It is an extraordinary record of deceit before a trier of fact. It also reflects a view from some government lawyers that they are somehow immune from the requirements of truth and candor. This remains a minority of government lawyers and I have found most lawyers — government and non-government — to be faithful to such ethical rules. However, I have been in cases where government lawyers have withheld information or given clearly false information to courts with little apparent concern over the possibility of discipline.
The Board noted:
The Administrator argues that respondent did not suddenly find herself in a jam; nor did the situation unexpectedly “snowball.” We agree. She made a decision to call a confidential informant who participated in the drug transaction as a witness at trial, and then she did what was necessary to keep his relationship to the police from the jury. The lack of reflection about the seriousness of the submission of false testimony that is shown by respondent’s failure to consider readily available and ethically required alternatives is disturbing. …
The Board recognized that Plants “has served the system well in the past.” However, it found that this service has to be viewed “against the backdrop of the entirety of the circumstances here.” In the end, the Board decided that “disbarment is not only appropriate in this case, but that anything less would seriously weaken a lawyer’s cardinal duty to the system of justice.”
Plants recently pleaded guilty to criminal conduct and was sentenced to a six-month jail sentence.
Here is the final order: Plant Order
Source: Free Press as first seen on ABA Journal.