It's not that we take pleasure in another's pain or travails, but we anticipated that things didn't look too rosy for former District Attorney Michael B. Nifong -- the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse "rape" case -- when the North Carolina State Bar filed a 17-page complaint (back in December of 2006) accusing him of an array of ethical improprieties.
So, it came as no surprise to us when it was announced just yesterday that Nifong was disbarred -- that is, his license to act as an attorney was rescinded or revoked.
In a statement released Saturday, June 16, 2007, Steven D. Michael, president of the North Carolina State Bar, commented as follows:
I am satisfied that justice was done in the Nifong case and am proud to say that our system of self-regulation worked well. Mr. Nifong received a fair trial. All interested parties -- but especially the citizens of North Carolina -- were finally able to see all the evidence relating to this extremely unfortunate case of professional misconduct.
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In my experience, misconduct of the sort Mr. Nifong engaged in is very rare and not at all typical of prosecutors in our state. We deeply regret the serious harm caused to these young men and their families. We hope the decision today will lessen the likelihood that anything like this will happen again.
The Bar's strong response to this situation made clear that the ethical rules restricting pretrial public comment and requiring prosecutors to turn over exculpatory evidence will be strictly enforced. Those rules are important because they ensure the fundamental right to a fair trial that every citizen is guaranteed in our constitution.
We can only hope the outcome of this most unfortunate disciplinary proceeding will serve as a "wake up call" to prosecutors throughout the country that it is their duty to uphold the law and ensure that justice is done (and the truth revealed) in each and every case. Any breach of that public trust should be not only meet with formal rebuke and reproach but lead to the loss of all prosecutorial responsibilities and a forfeiture of the privilege to practice law.
To review our original post on this topic, please use this link: December 29, 2006