Tuesday, November 1, 2011

OPR: The Office of Professional Responsibility and Why DOJ Attorneys Fear It

[Photo of DOJ Seal from reactf.org]
As a new federal prosecutor, years ago, I quickly learned that most federal prosecutors shake in their boots at even the thought of being investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility, ("OPR").  Here is why, in a nut shell!

You see, OPR is, for federal agents and prosecutors, what an internal affairs unit is for police officers.  In other words, OPR is the arm of the Department of Justice, ("DOJ"), which is entrusted with the responsibility of investigating and, in some cases, disciplining, federal agents and prosecutors who have been accused of misconduct related to their cases.  Each year, OPR investigates hundreds of complaints made by citizens, or referred to them by federal judges and others.  It is my understanding that OPR employees actually even troll across the internet looking for reports of alleged prosecutorial misconduct.  In short, if they catch you, OPR can get you fired! 

According to the DOJ website, OPR was created in 1975 in response to allegations of prosecutorial abuse committed by DOJ employees during the infamous Watergate scandal.

Fortunately, for me, during my 20 year career as a federal prosecutor, I never had to endure any OPR investigations!  But I knew or heard about federal employees who did.  And trust me, I don't believe it was a pleasant experience!  But I'll bet you will agree that OPR serves an important role in ferreting out government misconduct.

Of course, OPR is not the only vehicle for raising complaints about prosecutorial misconduct.  For instance, complaints can also be raised with state bar associations and with federal judges, in appropriate cases.  But   these are all matters which you should carefully discuss with your own criminal defense attorney.

As for me, now that I am an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, and no longer work for DOJ, I no longer have to worry about receiving a call from OPR to "come on down, you are the next contestant!"      

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