by Michael Zilber, Editor - Legal Ethics in Motion
The Louisiana Supreme Court has disbarred a former Assistant United States Attorney for posting anonymous, online comments about cases being handled by his office.
From November 2007 through March 2012, Sal Perricone, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, used five anonymous pseudonyms to post over 2,600 comments on the New Orleans Times-Piscayne website. On 100 to 200 of those posts, Perricone offered his strong opinion on cases with which either he or his office were affiliated.
In one case that involved the prosecution of police officers over the shooting of unarmed civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Perricone wrote: “NONE of these guys should have ever been given a badge.” The officers were convicted but, the district court judge reversed the police convictions, in a 129 page opinion that cited “grotesque prosecutorial misconduct,” referring in part to Perricone’s comments.
In turn, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a formal complaint against Perricone to the Louisiana Bar Disciplinary Board. The Disciplinary Board found that Perricone violated Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2), 3.6, 3.8(f), 8,4(a), and 8.4(d). Specifically, the Board found that Perriconeacted knowingly and intentionally, and that he had violated duties owed to his clients, his office, the public, and the legal system. The Board also found that Perricone’s misconduct caused actual harm to the perception of the legal profession and the reputation of the United States Attorney Office. On these grounds, the Board recommended Perricone’s disbarment.
Read the full opinion here.