Guest Opinion: “The Ethics of our Profession as Prosecutors”

The Ethics of our Profession as Prosecutors

Special to the Globe by San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow

By Dan Dow, June 1, 2024 2:45 am

The jury verdicts in New York v. Donald J. Trump, regardless of anyone’s political preferences, present a very significant historic event for our nation.  The trial and its verdicts are likely the most talked about event in recent history and that will continue through the November election. The nation is very divided politically and specifically about the appropriateness of this criminal trial. Perhaps as many as half the population of our country now do not trust the criminal and victim justice system. Whatever the number is, it will absolutely have an effect on our own San Luis Obispo County juries.

The reputation of our profession as prosecutors is impacted negatively and positively by the decisions made by prosecutors in every jurisdiction across the country. Therefore, we must jealously guard our individual and collective reputation by striving every day to exercise our authority in an impartial manner that earns the trust of every person in our jurisdiction regardless of their stature in society, their career, their popularity, their religious belief, their political preferences, or their personal associations. Our prosecutorial duty to seek truth is a mandate – not an optional ‘nice to have’ thought.

Americans everywhere should be told about the high ethical standard that applies to our profession and then decide whether or not their District Attorneys are living up to that standard.  If not, they should vote to elect a new prosecutor who publicly commits to this standard described by then US Attorney General Robert H. Jackson in his 1940 speech.

I became a prosecutor because of the requirement to exercise our authority with honesty, integrity, and fairness to all concerned. I am disappointed to see political prosecutions by some district attorneys – and their simultaneous dereliction of their duty to enforce the law and protect their communities from violent criminals. The immense power entrusted to the office of prosecutor requires individuals who are servants of the law and who are steadfastly committed to fulfilling our duty with honesty, integrity, and fairness.”

I am requesting that every attorney read the attached speech given by former US Attorney General Robert H. Jackson in 1940. He was addressing all of the US Attorneys at that time about the ethics of our job as prosecutors. The duty he describes applies equally to us as local prosecutors as it does to the Federal prosecutors he was addressing at the time.


*Speech delivered at the Second Annual Conference of United States Attorneys, in Washington D. C. on April 1, 1940.


Robert H. Jackson

Attorney General of the United States

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