Friday, February 10, 2006

My Criminal Domestic Violence Prosecution

As most of you know, I practice in the fields of appellate litigation and health care compliance. A few months ago I was appointed a special prosecutor for the South Carolina Attorney General's Office on a pro bono basis to assist with the state's zero tolerance policy for criminal domestic violence. These are small cases, mostly first offenses, tried in our Magistrate's Courts. Well, today I prosecuted my first case along with Heather Ruth and the Defendant was convicted.

From this experience, I have gained much more respect for those of you practicing on the criminal side of the law. Sure, there is some overlap with issues that arise in civil cases, but prosecuting a case--even a small one--raises rules of evidence that we never think about in a civil case (e.g., character evidence) and a host of other constitutional matters that I had not thought about since law school or my days clerking. Some civil litigators look down on those practicing criminal law. I've never shared that attitude, but today was still an eye-opener.

Without this special prosecutor program, the case today would have been tried by the arresting officers, who have no idea about the rules of evidence or how to conduct a trial. Props to the AG's office for starting this pro bono program and permitting civil litigators to step in and do some good in an overloaded South Carolina justice system.

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