Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Disciplinary charges against prosecutor dismissed

A Virginia State Bar disciplinary subcommittee has dismissed a complaint by Virginia Beach circuit judges that Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey L. Bryant III violated legal ethics.

Bryant announced the dismissal Saturday at the same event that led to the complaint—a Republican prayer breakfast.

Ethical proceedings typically remain confidential unless and until the VSB’s disciplinary apparatus finds misconduct serious enough to at least warrant a public reprimand.

Bryant and his attorney, Rodney G. Leffler of Fairfax, said the investigation ended well short of that point. An attorney in the VSB’s disciplinary office summarized the case for a subcommittee composed of two lawyers and a layman, who decided that it did not warrant further attention, Leffler said.

Leffler said the investigator interviewed 26 people, only one of whom recalled that Bryant had used the phrase “illegal conduct” at the February breakfast to describe the practice of taking cases under advisement without explicit legislative authority to do so.

The case was somewhat unusual in that The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of the complaint signed by all nine circuit judges and Bryant made public his written response to it.

Bryant said he responded to a question about drunken driving cases by noting that he believed that judges at times exceeded their authority by deferring judgment and dismissing or reducing the charge if a defendant had no further legal difficulty over the next few months of a year. He added that he kept a record of such instances in case members of the city legislative delegation might be interested in them when judges come up for reappointment.

“It is not against the rules to say something true about a judge,” Leffler said.

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