Ethics Dunce: District Attorney Craig Northcutt

How long will it take our communities to exile social Neanderthals like Craig Northcutt to jobs where their bigotry and un-American values can only harm the people foolish enough to voluntarily associate with them?

Northcutt is the Coffee County (Tennessee) District Attorney, and a 2018 videotape reveals him saying such things as,

  • Regarding the Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying: “Five people in black dresses rule us — it just takes five votes, it doesn’t take all nine.”

That statement is per se moronic, as well as irresponsible.. A ruling by any judicial panel is just as binding and has exactly as much force in law regardless of the vote. Northcutt is encouraging defiance of the law.

  • “DAs have what’s called prosecutorial discretion. Y’all need to know who your DA is. Y’all give us a lot of authority whether you know it or not, We can choose to prosecute anything, we can choose not to prosecute anything, up to and including murder. It’s our choice, unfettered. So, to deal with that, you elect a good Christian man as DA, and you’ll make sure at least [Christians] don’t get prosecuted criminally.”

Translation: “I’m biased, prejudiced, conflicted, and incapable of enforcing the law fairly and objectively., and don’t even want to, or know why I should”

  • “Y’all know what assault is? There’s a subcategory of assault called domestic assault. But a domestic assault carries more punishment: You forever lose the right to own a gun under federal and state law, you have restrictions on your movement that you otherwise wouldn’t have under what we call ‘simple assault’ and there are other enhanced punishments. So the social engineers on the Supreme Court decided that we now have homosexual marriage. I disagree with them. What do I do with domestic assaults? One hand, I don’t prosecute them, because I don’t recognize it as marriage, on the other hand, if I don’t prosecute them, then the sinner, the immoral guy, gets less punishment, what do you do?”

He appears to be saying that he will not prosecute domestic abuse between gay couples because he refuses to recognize the marriage, but he might prosecute just to make sure a gay abuser gets punished.

More recently on Facebook, the DA opined, regarding the rights of Muslims in the U.S.:

“There are no constitutional rights. There are God given rights protected by the constitution. If you don’t believe in the one true God, there is nothing to protect.”

180 Tennessee attorneys have signed an open letter calling on the bar association to investigate these statements. The Council on American-Islamic Relations also asked the disciplinary board to investigate Northcott.

In fact, he should resign. The statement about Muslims having no rights under the Constitution as well as his implication that he will not treat same-sex marriages as legal are declarations that he will defy the law. It is hard to find a provision in the Tennessee Rules that directly applies, but it is there…you just have to burrow into the Comments (Comments aren’t rules, exactly) to find it. Like most, but not all, U.S. jurisdictions, Tennessee includes Rule 8.4 d in its Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers, which declares that a lawyer (including a prosecutor) must not..

(d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of

Words, however, are not always regarded as conduct, and bar associations are increasingly wary about their rules being declared unconstitutional. Fortunately, the Comments to Rule 8.4 states,

A lawyer who, in the course of representing a client, knowingly manifests, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, or socio economic status violates paragraph (d) when such actions are prejudicial to the administration of justice.

That looks like a slam dunk to me.

I wonder if DA Northcutt has ever read his Rules of Professional Conduct?


Pointer: valkygrrl


21 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: District Attorney Craig Northcutt

  1. In my head, when I agree with this assessment with the language “This sort of open language from a public official isn’t called-for” it’s followed with the ominous words “just yet”. I wonder how much further things have to go before we can say his expressions of zero confidence in the fair execution of law are fair and obligatory. I’m not sure I’m not already there in some cases. My right to not bake the cake is on thin ice, and Democrats have invested heavily in a fleet of high performance hair dryers and space heaters.

    • As I think about the Little Sisters of the Poor dragged to court, and Luke’s helpful parsing of the flawed bumpkin’s jumbled language, I find that I have to mitigate my mitigated opposition. I’ve waffled. He’s not the hero we want, need, deserve, or even want to associate with, but he’s there, and I’ll throw my support behind him three hundred crazy percent with head held high, nose held tightly, and his person positioned well outside my abnormally large personal space bubble. There’s a prominent, moneyed movement to marginalize everything I am, and I won’t turn away even the most flawed ally. I will not bake that cake, and if a country that aims to force me to do otherwise should find its institutions undermined so be it. If there’s to be a war against my faith, let it be fought in the open where we can all see it. I’ll not act like everyone’s above board while watching my ideas criminalized.

      • Unfortunately, I believe you are accurately describing a great deal of the public’s thinking. I think he is the equivalent of an Al Sharpton such that he may be an idiot but damn it he is our idiot.

        • I might avoid the possessive pronoun too. I’ll go so far as to say he’s an idiot who made a very good point very badly and try to be as vague as possible about him in particular so as to move the discussion someplace defensible. You’ve shocked me back into a mitigated opposition with this Sharpton talk. Then again, there’s nobody championing this point at all!

          I’m on a knife’s edge with this guy. If only he were more presidential.

          • Ben
            The possessive pronoun reference was an associative use not a strictly literal use.

            What bothers me is that we feel compelled to employ our own “hired gun” when the competition with power employs bullying tactics against us. This is not healthy for anyone but when reasonableness is seen as weakness it seems like the only recourse to prevent being rolled like a drunk on the strip constantly.

            • I think there’s another element too. The black hats have a way of choosing fall guys to represent a position they don’t care for. By needling poor specimens of their enemies (living, breathing straw men, you might say) they move the ball further afield and poison the discourse against better, nuanced specimens. I think I’m resisting this. I don’t care if he wore blackface, either. I’m not budging another inch in the reverse. My mind is entirely closed to their opposition, like a stupid, cornered animal. Anything less is a bid against survival.

            • I think the logic goes something like:

              If you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you definitely don’t follow Duchess of Queensbury rules or especially the prim and cordial demands of fair, reasoned debate.

  2. I read the third quote (regarding same-sex domestic assault) not as “do I prosecute or not,” but as “do I charge it as DOMESTIC assault”- I parse his ~logic~ thus:

    – Domestic assault is punished more harshly than simple assault

    – If he charges same-sex domestic assault AS domestic assault, he’s recognizing them as a married couple, which he does not want to do

    – if he charges it as simple assault then the punishment is less, and he’s letting a homosexual off with lighter punishment than a heterosexual, for the same type of crime

    Which is still pretty fucking terrible but doesn’t quite rise to the level of whether or not to prosecute at all, or prosecuting a case just to punish a homosexual.

  3. The DA does tremendous damage to faith in the criminal justice system with statements like these.

    However, with respect to the statement about one true god, why do we default to assuming the judge would act more harshly toward Muslims than a Hindi, a Zoroastrian, an animist or even an athiest. He did not single out Muslims for harsher treatment he singled out Christians for preferred treatment. We have to stop making Muslims the goto victims.

    • “However, with respect to the statement about one true god, why do we default to assuming the judge would act more harshly toward Muslims than a….”

      From the linked article:

      Northcott jumped in to claim that Islam is not a legitimate religion and that being a Muslim is no different than “being part of the KKK, Aryan Nation, etc.” He said that every Muslim “by definition” supports an “evil belief system whether they understand/act on it or not.”

      He also brought up his beliefs about the U.S. Constitution.

      “There are no constitutional rights. There are God given rights protected by the constitution. If you don’t believe in the one true God, there is nothing to protect. No one other than God has given us any rights,” Northcott reportedly wrote.

      • Rich
        I read the link in the first story but did not see the link in the anti-islam piece. My error. But if Islam, as he believes is not a legitimate religion, it cannot have a god to worship.

        I do stand by my point that his comment about one true god seems to suggest he will give more deference to Judeo- Christian defendents than any other defendants. That is what I find objectionable.

        The guy does not give the public confidence in his ability to apply the law equally which has a deleterious effect on all persons, favored or not.

  4. It’s already time to run the ‘A Man for All Seasons’ clip, yet again, Jack!

    This bloke is not fit for purpose. He’s probably no worse than many others, but I don’t want him on MY side of the fence.

  5. Northcutt’s understanding of Tennessee domestic violence law is flawed. In Tennessee, it’s a domestic assault when it’s committed against someone who is a:
    Current or former spouse;
    Dating or sexual partner;
    Blood or adoptive relative;
    Current or former relative by marriage; or
    Adult or minor child of any of the above individuals.

    Thus, whether the hypothetical gay couple is married or not, the law applies.

  6. I think he is probably better than 95% of the DA’s in this country. He edges out the others because he appears to be honest about how he works as a DA. I have seen a DA that worked with a rapist to harass and take revenge on his victims for daring to file a report. I know someone who was prosecuted because their roommate used his computer in their dorm room for child pornography (the DA said he knew the roommate did it, but since he had fled the state, the owner of the computer was an easier target). I know of a local prosecutor who encouraged their crime lab to falsify testimony in thousands of cases. I have seen a DA allow an attorney to sexually abuse hundreds of juveniles the attorney was defending. When eventually caught, the DA delayed prosecution until the attorney died of natural causes.

    There are a lot of bad DA’s out there. At least one of them believes in truth in advertising.

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