The prohibition against attorneys engaging in conduct that creates “the appearance of impropriety” was eliminated from the legal ethics rules (though not the judicial ethics rules) a long time ago, almost 30 years. Periodically a case will arise in which its absence is felt. The nice thing about the appearance of impropriety category is that it was flexible enough to use to sanction lawyers who figured out ways to make the profession look slimy without running squarely afoul of other rules…like San Diego prosecutor Ernie Marugg.
Marugg, it is alleged, used his defendants list as his little black book…seeking romantic relationships with the women he prosecuted after their trials were over. His habit was investigated one, but no specific ethical violation could be found. What would it be? Was he too easy on the women he was duty bound to prosecute zealously? One woman who pleaded guilty when Marugg prosecuted her is now suing him, claiming that his personal interest in her caused him to be biased against her. Huh? How does that work? “You always hurt the one you love,” as the old song says? Continue reading