Novel Argument


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.