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Monday, May 06, 2019

Pa Bar - DA DiLuzio's Marriage to Police Chief Would Be Ethical Conflict

Nuria DiLuzio is running for the Democratic nomination as Northampton County's next District Attorney. When she first announced her candidacy in January before a crowded room of enthusiastic supporters, she certainly seemed like the candidate to beat. A few months later, her campaign is on life support.  I've previously reported that she only became a Democrat on November 21, just three days after incumbent John Morganelli announced he had decided against seeking re-election. This hurt her. Her campaign team dropped her last week after discovering that she decorated the front door of her home with a Trump-Pence sign. This hurt more. Now there's another problem, too. DeLuzio is married to Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem's Police Chief. To those who've asked whether this is a conflict, DiLuzio has said No. At a candidates' night with the Easton NAACP, she even claimed the Pa. Bar Association had given her a green light in the form of a favorable ethics opinion. This, however, is completely inaccurate.

I've obtained and have attached a copy of that opinion. Contrary to what DiLuzio has represented, she has a conflict. It's one that would prevent her from supervising any prosecution arising out of Bethlehem. That's about 40% of the criminal cases tried in Northampton County.

This Opinion, dated February 21, comes from the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee. It represents the views of only one member. It is "advisory only and is not binding on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. This opinion carries only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it."

This epistle carries no weight, nor should it. But it says the opposite of what DiLuzio has claimed.

The issue:
"You are running for the position of District Attorney in County A. Your husband is the Chief of Police in City B, which is in County A. If you win the election, you ask whether you will have a conflict of interest in serving as the District Attorney because you are married to the Chief of Police."
Conclusion:
"Given that a prosecutor’s role as a “minister of justice” requires impartiality or disinterestedness, and a prosecutor is obligated to refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause, the issue is whether you will be precluded from exercising independent professional judgment in instances in which your spouse or subordinates of your spouse are bringing charges and testifying against defendants in court. You would have a conflict of interest under Rule 1.7(a)(2) where there is significant risk that your representation of the Commonwealth, which entails a fiduciary duty to the public to act disinterestedly, is materially limited by your personal interest in taking actions that favor your spouse or your spouse’s subordinates. Section 3-1.7 of ABA Standards for Criminal Justice cited above reinforces this precept.

"Rule 1.7(b) provides that notwithstanding the existence of a conflict of interest, representation may proceed if the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation and the client gives informed consent.  However, serious doubt exists as to whether the interests of the Commonwealth will be adequately protected if the Commonwealth gives informed consent. Moreover, it is not clear how the Commonwealth would consent to such a conflict when its own representative is the lawyer engaging in the conflict. Accordingly, whenever matters arise in the District Attorney’s Office involving the police department for which your spouse serves as Chief of Police, you should consider formally designating an Assistant District Attorney to be fully responsible for prosecutions arising from arrests by that police department consistent with a court-implemented and supervised screening process concerning the handling of such matters to avoid the conflicts enumerated above. See PBA Informal Opinion 2010-052."
Under this opinion, DiLuzio would have to designate an Assistant District Attorney who was never elected to handle and supervise all Bethlehem prosecutions  So basically there would be two district attorneys. Moreover, the unelected DA would be subject to court supervision. That presents another ethical dilemma. How could the court possibly hold itself out as an independent and neutral jurist if it is supervising the DA who prosecutes Bethlehem cases? 

This informal opinion is poorly considered. But it nevertheless says the exact opposite of what DiLuzio has told others. I find that more troubling than the opinion itself.

PaBar: DA Has Conflict if Married to Chief of Police by BernieOHare on Scribd

21 comments:

  1. It was you singing her praises when this was first mentioned. Since she works for McClure and you love him now, you were carried away in your support. You even attacked posters when they brought thud up.

    This was a no-brainer form day one. Shame on all involved.

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  2. One has to question... if it would be construed as a conflict for her to be the DA while her husband is doing his Chiefly duties - why wouldn't it be a conflict for her to be the Chief Public Defender.

    I mean, it's no secret that she has cases on record where she was a blatant conflict of interest. And online reviews show that she likes to wave around "my husband is the Chief" to prospective criminal clients.

    Shame on all involved indeed... this woman has a reputation and should've never gotten this far in the game.

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  3. 1:43, She was the candidate to beat. I pointed that out, and I believe that assessment was accurate when I gave it. But contrary to your flawed assertion that I am a shill for McClure, I make up my own mind about everything. The proof of that is this and several stories pointing to the flaws in DiLuzio. But you appear to be motivated more by your hatred of me than the substance of what I write.

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  4. 2:22, it is a conflict if either are personally involved. That is what the opinion says re public defender.

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  5. Vote Republican! Make Northampton County Great Again!

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  6. You think this is bad? Look into why they have pushed for one vendor for voting machines. How was the Election committee steered into one system. Dig it up.

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  7. 5:14. Stop with the Election machines crying already, it has nothing to do with this story

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  8. This newest ethics opinion addressing her becoming DA notwithstanding, it was always my considered opinion that the first non-binding advisory opinion was wrongly construed. For purposes of a client based conflict of interest, the public defenders office is considered a law firm. If she has a conflict of interest it is imputed to the office not just her individually. Her husband heads the entire Police Department. She heads the entire Public Defenders office. Sloughing off a case to an assistant does not cure any conflicts. What has always been more concerning is her well known private office interview technique of impressing potential clients by bragging about her husbands position and what it can do for them if she is hired. Also ,it is well known in the legal community that some (not a lot- because most know how toxic she is) officers close to her husband drop her name on arrested defendants to retain her. Even her husband has engaged in this practice. All that has come out over the last few days is just the tip of the iceberg.

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  9. I would say putting aside the sign issue and the conflict issue--bottom line is Terry is more qualified and more experienced to be the next District Attorney of the County.

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  10. All ADAs are unelected so I don't see the problem here. The DA is an electable position (regrettably) but having special counsel just for Bethlehem doesn't preclude her from being the best candidate running currently.

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  11. I have a problem with an unelected ADA overseeing 40% of the criminal caseload.

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  12. How much case load should an elected DA be given before they can hire ADAs though? At some point the DA can't prosecute every case so they hire ADAs to do it unelected. Job interview style meritocracy (probably not reality but that's what they say). That is basically what we are talking about here but it would be for a whole town rather than how they dole out the cases now.

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  13. The hole of the lehighvalley is just one big conflict of intrests, play musical chairs with the economic dynamics. Musical chairs have also been known to be played by lawyers posing as judges as well as the mediators with there one sided view of things that were said and done?
    The chief liars in charge!

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  14. This is moot, she stands no chance of winning, period!

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  15. This entire situation is just pathetic. Celeste Dee recruits her Republican former lawyer and friend to run for DA. Sits on negative information until it's obvious her client is going to lose then goes public with all her dirt. Bernie, did you get this from the Bar Association or from Nuria's former campaign. What a mess! And what lawyer allows their former staff to run around a wreck their reputation/ career without suing? How is this where our politics ended up? It's so obvious that it is Dee putting these hits out on her to avoid taking responsibility for a terrible candidate that she recruited, promoted, profited off of and then abandoned like a RAT on a sinking ship. I mean it's not like Dee isn't running to every reporter trying to get Nuria destroyed https://www.mcall.com/news/elections/mc-nws-northampton-da-nuria-diluzio-campaign-trump-sign-20190503-52ecl55n6zf3hpitaxxoyhlll4-story.html

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  16. Wouldn't this conflict of interest also apply to her work as public defender? It seems a violation of every defendant's rights to have a public defender who is married to the police chief. Is Northampton County concerned about this enough to request an opinion?

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  17. ”Bernie, did you get this from the Bar Association or from Nuria's former campaign”

    Got it from the most recent issue of Pennsylvania Lawyer, a publication of the Pa. Bar.

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  18. 2:45, an opinion was sought and obtained re public defender.

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  19. Still is a conflict of interest. The entire McClure Admisntration is a walking conflict. You should hear how he talks about county council and about the "sure things" he has on council. He regretted that Kraft left the council because he could control what happened. These machines are the tip of the iceberg.

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  20. Let's take a trip in the way back machine...

    Bernie O'HareJanuary 15, 2019 at 8:46 AM
    "Is it really a good idea to have a DA and police chief who are spouses? It seems like that could be a conflict of interest issue if there are problems in the police department."

    Since both DiLuzio and her husband would be in the business of prosecuting bad guys, there is no conflict. If one of those bad guys is a Bethlehem cop, the matter could be referred to the state AG, who has concurrent jurisdiction.

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  21. speaking of conflicts, what about the conflict of mancrush morganelli, when prosecutor becomes judge, and has to sentance criminals sent to him by his former subordinates, not to mention many of the same faces he previously prosecuted?

    So is that a conflict?...but that one does not matter because your mancrush kept you out of jail your entire adult life?

    Sounds to me like he would have to recuse himself from all criminal matters

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