NEW ORLEANS – The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s attempt to evade accountability by claiming absolute immunity for jailing and coercing crime victims with fraudulent subpoenas.
The court upheld a lower court ruling, in which Judge Jane Triche Milazzo wrote that the District Attorney’s subpoena practices amount to “systemic fraud” and “shock the conscience,” and that his request for immunity would “grant prosecutors a license to bypass the most basic legal checks on their authority.”
“In rejecting Cannizzaro's attempt to evade responsibility for his actions, this ruling is a win for prosecutorial accountability that sends a clear message that prosecutors are not above the law,” said Bruce Hamilton, staff attorney with the ACLU of Louisiana. “Using bogus subpoenas to intimidate and jail witnesses and victims is an egregious abuse of power, and we're committed to holding the DA accountable for violating the rights of the people he's sworn to serve.”
In October 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Louisiana, and Civil Rights Corps filed a lawsuit against Cannizzaro and ten assistant district attorneys to end the unconstitutional deception, intimidation, and jailing of crime victims and witnesses.
The lawsuit detailed District Attorney Cannizzaro’s illegal scheme of fabricating subpoenas to coerce crime victims and witnesses of crimes into submitting to interrogations, and presenting fraudulent information in court to persuade judges to issue arrest warrants. For crime victims and witnesses who don’t appear as ordered, the District Attorney’s Office further abuses its power and authority to have these witnesses, who are often the victims of crimes, put in jail.
DA Cannizzaro’s fake subpoenas were not approved by a judge, as required by law. The suit seeks to end these practices once and for all, and has continued to move forward as the courts have considered Cannizzaro’s claims of immunity.