The Louisiana district attorney whose office issued bogus subpoenas to trick witnesses into “volunteering” their testimony is now facing multiple lawsuits. DA Leon Cannizzaro’s office was sued on May 12th by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Foundation for its refusal to turn over copies of every fake subpoena it has issued.
Three days later, it was sued again, this time by the ACLU.
The ACLU lawsuit, filed Monday in Orleans Parish Civil Court, differs from a related lawsuit brought last week against Cannizzaro’s office by the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Foundation regarding the so-called Article 66 subpoenas.
The MacArthur suit seeks copies of every subpoena issued by the DA’s office since 2013 — those properly authorized by a judge, as well as the fraudulent “DA’s subpoenas” intended to appear as if they carried legal weight.
The ACLU suit seeks the names and Louisiana Bar Association numbers of any attorney in Cannizzaro’s office responsible for using one of the fake documents. An attorney who knowingly used a fraudulent document to compel witness testimony could be subject to penalties ranging from ethical misconduct sanctions by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board to the unlikely extreme of criminal charges brought by the state Attorney General’s office related to forgery.
So far, Cannizzaro’s office has no comment on the lawsuits (other than to say it hasn’t been served with either suit yet). The only comment Cannizzaro’s office has made is that the practice predates his tenure, as if that somehow excuses the ethical and (possibly) legal boundaries his office crossed. As a deflection, it’s horrible. It’s like claiming you still approve general warrants because your British predecessors did.
I’m sure DA Cannizzaro has several reasons for not immediately handing over these documents, all of them related to mitigating the damage done by these revelations. There may be a day of judicial reckoning ahead for Cannizzaro and his underlings, and the longer he can keep these documents out of the public’s hands, the longer it will be until he can be confronted with the evidence.
Cannizzaro’s office now has multiple opportunities to see what it feels like to be a defendant, and most likely will be the recipient of genuine subpoenas demanding compliance under the pain of actual jailing. Process servers will now have to navigate groups of protesters calling for Cannizzaro’s removal just to hand him copies of these lawsuits. And all of this could have been avoided by Cannizzaro, if he had just decided against carrying on the unethical “tradition” of intimidating possible witnesses with fake subpoenas and bogus legal threats.