The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
I've seen lots of comments such as this one, discussing the indictment of the makers of surreptitious Planned Parenthood videos : "Turns out one of the prosecutors in this county is on the board of the regional Planned Parenthood. Doubt there is a conflict at all." (The last sentence, I assume, was sarcastic.) I looked into the situation, and here's what I found:
1. One of the nearly 300 prosecutors in Harris County, Tex., (the office involved in the grand jury investigation) is Lauren Reeder, who at least was and maybe still is on the board of the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.
2. According to an August article in the Houston Chronicle, the Harris County D.A. stated that Reeder would not be involved in the investigation:
"She will not be involved in any manner in this investigation," [Harris County District Attorney Devon] Anderson said. "If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly."
This apparently happened "days after" the investigation was launched, at a time when the investigation was seen as chiefly focused on alleged wrongdoing by the Planned Parenthood chapter.
3. I've seen no evidence that, despite this assurance from the D.A., this one particular prosecutor was indeed involved in the case. Nor do I think there is anything unusual in a huge prosecutor's office proceeding with a case even though one apparently relatively junior prosecutor (Reeder joined the office in 2014) has some involvement with an alleged wrongdoer or an alleged victim.
If I hear more evidence on this, I'd be glad to post it and revise my opinion if necessary. But at this point, all the talk about the alleged conflict of interest here seems like a red herring.