A former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia committed an “egregious” ethics violation by withholding evidence in a shooting case more than a decade ago, and his legal practice should be suspended for 30 days, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility concluded this week.
The board found that Andrew Kline, who no longer works for the Justice Department, “failed to disclose exculpatory information that was obviously material” in the 2001 case, in which Kline prosecuted a man for a drive-by shooting without revealing that an investigator had told Kline the victim could not identify his assailant. Kline’s notes from the interview with the investigator came to light when the case was retried and a different prosecutor took over.
“Prosecutors should be held accountable in light of their pivotal role in the justice system,” the board wrote in its decision. “They are given great discretion, and there are few tools available to oversee their compliance with the legal standards that govern their conduct.”
Kline told the board that he had not withheld evidence he believed he was required to reveal. He has no other disciplinary history. A hearing committee of the board ruled in 2012 that Kline should receive a public reprimand, but Kline appealed that decision.
The Justice Department has supported Kline, arguing that he was not obligated to turn over the information from the investigator because it was not relevant. The department filed an amicus brief on Kline’s behalf when his case was before the hearing committee last year.
Kline can now submit his case to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which will have final say on whether he is penalized.