FOUR-YEAR SUSPENSION RECOMMENDED FOR SANTA CLARA COUNTY DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY

MEDIA CONTACT:  Diane Curtis   415-538-2028   diane.curtis@calbar.ca.gov

San Francisco, February 11, 2009 — The Hearing Department of the State Bar Court of California has recommended to the Supreme Court that Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Field  be suspended for four years because he “abused his prosecutorial power, concealed relevant and material evidence and violated the constitutional rights of defendants.”

In a 67-page, Feb. 10 decision, State Bar Court Judge Pat McElroy agreed with State Bar prosecutors that Field, 44, was guilty of misconduct by failing to maintain the respect of the court, failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, misleading a judge, failing to obey court orders, committing acts of moral turpitude and dishonesty, making misrepresentations and failing to comply with federal and state laws.

Judge McElroy recommended that Field be suspended for five years, that execution of the suspension be stayed, that he be placed on probation for five years and that the actual suspension be four years and until Field shows proof  “of his rehabilitation, present fitness to practice and present learning and ability in the general law.”

“We are extremely pleased with the State Bar Court’s decision,” said  State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Scott Drexel. “While we regret the need to bring disciplinary proceedings against a public prosecutor, the court’s decision sends a strong message about the role that prosecutors play in our criminal justice system and about the consequences that can result from the intentional suppression of evidence and other prosecutorial misconduct."

The bar charged Field with numerous counts of misconduct in four matters.  Judge McElroy found the following violations:

  • In a juvenile court matter (the Minor A. matter), Field unlawfully obtained evidence in violation of a court order by subjecting a minor to a dental exam in 1995;
  • In a habeas corpus case (the Auguste matter), Field failed to disclose exculpatory evidence (secret interview with a witness who challenged the credibility of the alleged victim), allowed the submission of a false search warrant affidavit, sought improper search warrants and made misrepresentations to the court in a habeas corpus matter in 2003;
  • In a homicide prosecution (the Ballard matter), Field again failed to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense (secret interview with a co-defendant who pointed the finger at another co-defendant as the shooter in a murder/robbery) in 2003; and
  • In a sexually violent predator proceeding (the Shazier matter), Field disobeyed court orders in his rebuttal closing argument at trial in 2005, which the appellate court later found  to constitute prosecutorial misconduct.

Field’s “…suppression of exculpatory evidence, misrepresentations to the court and disobeying court orders do not involve personal benefit or pecuniary gain and thus disbarment is not warranted,” Judge McElroy wrote in her decision. “But, the case law and standards provide that placing respondent on a long period of actual suspension would be appropriate to protect the public, to preserve public confidence in the profession and to maintain the highest possible professional standards for attorneys.  Because of the high ethical standard demanded of a prosecutor, respondent’s prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of power in not one but four criminal matters warrant an unusual lengthy period of actual suspension, short of disbarment.”

Either party may appeal the decision to the Review Department of the State Bar Court and then to the California Supreme Court. The State Bar Court’s recommendation will not become final until it is approved by the California Supreme Court. The full decision is available on the State Bar’s Web site at http://members.calbar.ca.gov/search/member_detail.aspx?x=168197.  

Founded in 1927 by the state legislature, the State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By February 2009, membership reached more than 221,800.

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