Court orders DA’s office to turn over records on ‘fake subpoenas’

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro

NEW ORLEANS – A New Orleans Civil District Court judge has ordered Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to turn over five years worth of public records on false subpoenas, or documents that claim to be subpoenas but were not issued by a court.

The district attorney’s office came under fire in late April after The Lens published an article about prosecutors sending out “subpoenas” to potential witnesses, documents that threatened to jail the witness or impose a fine on the witness if they did not appear.

Those “subpoenas,” however, were not issued by a court, and the district attorney’s office had no authority to threaten jail time or fines if the witness did not comply, according to legal professionals interviewed by The Lens.

The ACLU of Louisiana in May asked Cannizzaro’s office to turn over all records identifying lawyers in his office who have issued or authorized false subpoenas, but the Cannizzaro denied the request.

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In response, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit, Esman v. Cannizzaro, in the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans seeking to compel the District Attorney to produce the requested documents.

Today, the judge sided with the ACLU.

“This ruling is a victory for the people of Orleans Parish and an important step towards restoring justice,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “These false subpoenas were used to deceive people and violate their rights — Louisianans deserve to know who was responsible.”

 

 

Cannizzaro’s office stopped the practice of issuing the false subpoenas shortly after The Lens’ story was published.