Novel Argument

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Last week a California appeals court removed a prosecutor from a case in which a man is charged with drugging and raping a woman, saying her decisions could be influenced by a desire to promote her self-published crime novel, in which a man is charged with drugging and raping a woman. In what it described as a "case of first impression," a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Santa Barbara Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley "has a disabling conflict of interest," since she "will garner no laurels, and the case will not generate favorable media publicity for her book, if she enters into a negotiated settlement." That much seems reasonable, but the court also declared that "no current public employee should be permitted to exploit his or her official position as a lever to earn extra income," which implies a constitutionally suspect rule against writing books on work-related topics. Such a standard would bar not only crappy crime novels by prosecutors but scholarly books by the likes of Richard Posner and William Rehnquist.

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  1. IIRC, this very topic came up when Chief Moose of the DC sniper case wrote his book.

    I can’t recall if he had already resigned or what when he wrote it, but there was discussion of this topic.

    Similar controversy (from the other side) when a murderer in jail profits from their prose – see: Mumia Abu Jamal

  2. I don’t see what the big deal is here. I’m pretty sure that this was (literally) a textbook example in our ethics course at law school. The only difference is that she was apparently already working on the book.

  3. I guess they threw the book at her. Thank you, I’ll be here all night.

  4. Such a standard would bar not only crappy crime novels by prosecutors but scholarly books by the likes of Richard Posner and William Rehnquist.

    Not likely, since the California state appeals courts has no jurisdiction (and little influence) over Posner, a (federal) judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit – basically Illinois, Indiana & Wisconson.

    Also not likely over Rehnquist since he’s probably not going to publish anything scholarly in the near – or not so near – future.

    Learn your law. There’s a mighty disconnect ‘twixt state and federal jurisprudence. Sure, some desperate attorney could pull this Cali apeal’s decision out on a brief…only to get ripped to shreds over just the type of argument Sullum raises.

    Interesting wording for the decision, but I wouldn’t make too much of it.

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