If nothing else, embattled Santa Clara County prosecutor Benjamin Field has chutzpah.
Accused by State Bar prosecutors of abusing his authority by ignoring judges’ orders, concealing evidence and attempting to intimidate witnesses, Field filed court papers recently arguing that at worst he should be given a public reproval. And that amounts to a hard slap on the wrist.
This even after the State Bar in late September stated in court documents that it wouldn’t seek disbarment, but rather a three-year suspension.
“There was no venality or corruption here. There was a very able lawyer doing his job,” Allen Ruby, a partner with San Jose’s Ruby & Schofield, wrote in a post-trial brief filed Oct. 31 in the State Bar Court in San Francisco. “If there is a finding by this court that Mr. Field should have done his job better, or differently, that ought not to transform him into a menace to the public, deserving of ruin.”
Field is accused of ignoring judges’ orders by seeking search warrants in a habeas case involving two convicted rapists and moving forward with a dental examination of a minor in another rape case. He also is accused of concealing evidence that would have helped the defense in some cases.
Field escaped facing disbarment because of more than 35 witnesses — including the former and current district attorneys of Santa Clara County — who testified on his behalf earlier this year.
“Without the character testimony,” State Bar Supervising Trial Counsel Donald Steedman wrote in court papers, “the State Bar would have recommended disbarment.”
Field’s effort to either be exonerated or be publicly reproved irked Steedman, especially because the State Bar feels he has shown no remorse.
Field’s claims of innocence, Steedman wrote in papers filed Thursday, “are a symptom of his attitude, i.e., that anyone who dares to disagree with his interpretation of facts or events is guilty of mischaracterizing the record.”
In earlier papers, the State Bar said Field “believes that he has done nothing ethically wrong, but rather committed a series of honest mistakes that have unluckily placed him in a bad light. [His] only remorse is for the damage these events have caused him, his family and his office.”
State Bar Court Judge Patrice McElroy, who has presided over Field’s case, has the prerogative to ignore both the State Bar’s and Field’s recommendations on punishment. She easily could still recommend disbarment.
— Mike McKee