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Hearing officer finds in Carl Brizzi's favor in disciplinary action

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A hearing officer recommends that disciplinary charges be dismissed against ex-Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, and now it’s up to the Indiana Supreme Court to consider the case.

Issuing a final report late June 28, Shelby Circuit Judge Charles O’Connor found in favor of the former prosecutor who faces professional conduct charges because of public statements he made years ago about two high-profile murder cases. The hearing officer heard testimony in early January and took the case under advisement for nearly six months before reaching a decision and issuing his report.

The commission filed a formal complaint against Brizzi in October 2009, accusing him of making statements that went beyond the public information purpose and prejudiced the pair of cases and amounted to violations of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.8 and Rule 3.6. One issue came with an April 2008 news conference where Brizzi made statements about accused multi-state serial killer Bruce Mendenhall, and a second allegation involves a 2006 news release about the Hamilton Avenue slayings in Indianapolis, where seven people were killed and Brizzi initially sought the death penalty. A comment in that news release said the defendants “weren't going to let anyone or anything get in the way of what they believed to be an easy score.”

Arguing for the Disciplinary Commission, attorney David Hughes said those comments were prejudicial against the individuals and insinuated the motivation behind the statements was part of a larger message the prosecutor was sending at a time when Indianapolis saw higher crime trends and, in 2006, he faced a heated election race.

That question is one that hasn’t been addressed in Indiana, and if answered it could have statewide impact for attorneys in talking publicly about their cases and what does or does not amount to misconduct.

Judge O’Connor wrote in his report that Brizzi’s statements were available through public record and fall under the safe harbor provision in Rule 3.6(b), and that pre-trial publicly didn’t affect the court’s ability to select unbiased jurors in the Hamilton Avenue slaying cases. The Disciplinary Commission failed to introduce clear and convincing evidence that Brizzi knew or should have known the statements made would have substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing any proceedings, the judge’s report says.

Disciplinary Commission Executive Secretary G. Michael Witte said his office is reviewing the report and has 30 days to file a petition for review with the state Supreme Court.

The justices have final say in the case and what, if any, misconduct might have occurred and any sanctions that might be necessary. The court doesn’t have any timeline on that decision once the parties submit all their briefs.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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