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Can Duke Students Sue?

Now that the criminal charges against the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape have been dismissed, some are wondering whether the Duke defendants should sue or move on with their lives. And there's already some discussion about the possible basis for an action.

As this AP story describes, generally, prosecutors have immunity for what they do inside the courtroom, but "that protection probably doesn't cover some of Mike Nifong's more questionable actions in his handling of the case -- such as calling the lacrosse players 'a bunch of hooligans' in one of several interviews deemed unethical by the state bar." Several experts quoted in the article believe the Duke players have a good case. From the article:

"I think their chances of success suing Mr. Nifong are reasonably good, despite what we call prosecutorial immunity," said John Banzhaf, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law....

Other actions Nifong took outside of the courtroom could open him up to a lawsuit, Banzhaf said. Nifong, among other things, directed the police lineup at which the accuser identified the three players; the lineup has been criticized as faulty. The bar has also accused Nifong of lying in court about having turned over all DNA test results to the defense.

"When he acts as an investigator and advises police, or makes representations to court which may be false, in all these situations he does not have absolute immunity," Banzhaf said.

But  another attorney quoted in the article, Norm Early, a former Denver district attorney, opined that he did not believe that Nifong's actions alone would sustain a lawsuit. 

So far, attorneys for the accused students have advised their clients about their options regarding a suit, but as yet, no decisions have been made.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 12, 2007 at 06:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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