At Dan Clark’s Bar Mitzvah in 1984, he was assigned to read a portion of the Torah from Deuteronomy 16. The passage ends with the exhortation, “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.”
It was a prescient passage for the teenager who, today, works as an assistant chief deputy for King County’s Criminal Division.
On a recent Monday at Seattle University, Dan described his bar mitzvah passage to law students in a prosecutorial ethics class.
The word “justice” wasn’t just randomly repeated twice, Dan told the students. Its repetition had specific meaning. The first utterance of justice instructed people to seek a just outcome–a fair result. The second utterance of justice referenced a just means–a fair process. Both, Dan explained, are critical to criminal prosecution. It is not enough to seek a proper resolution; the process itself must have the same integrity as the final outcome.
“Ethics is doing the right thing when no one may be watching or may even know,” Dan told the students, in a discussion of Brady v. Maryland.
Brady is a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case that held that prosecutors have a duty to turn over any evidence that could be favorable to the defense even when it hurts the State’s case. This includes any information that could be used to impeach State's witnesses, including any police officers who have findings of misconduct in their past.
"With 40 different police agencies and thousands of officers in King County, how do you ensure that every prosecutor is complying with this law on every single case?"
Dan is all too familiar with this obligation. In 2007, he spearheaded a committee to draft the first written Brady protocol for the King County Prosecutor’s Office. The Brady protocol was the first of its kind in Washington and has since been adopted as a state model policy. Dan has chaired the Brady Committee ever since.
“Our office takes our Brady obligation very seriously," Dan said. "It is the only way to ensure a defendant has a fair trial and that justice is being done every day on every case.”
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