In the abstract, the idea of pairing a federal prosecutor and
criminal-defense lawyer to teach a class, entitled "Advanced Criminal
Procedure," at the Ralph R. Pappito School of Law at Roger Williams University
might seem like a good idea. But what if the defense lawyer is state
Representative David N. Cicilline -- one of several candidates challenging
Providence Mayor Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr. -- and his co-teacher is Richard
W. Rose, lead prosecutor of the Plunder Dome case against Cianci and three
Cicilline, an East Side Democrat, says Rose and he have been co-teaching the
class for about three years, although time constraints have precluded Rose from
taking part since the Plunder Dome trial began in April. "I don't think it has
any impact or significance whatsoever," Cicilline says of his role in teaching
with Rose. "It never occurred to me that it would be problematic nor did I
think it was."
But Greg Gerritt of the Green Party, another of Cianci's four announced
challengers, sees the collaboration as a perceptual problem because of
Cicilline's mayoral candidacy and Rose's role in prosecuting the current mayor.
"My sense is they're probably not doing anything that affects it [the
prosecution], but it still looks bad," Gerritt says, particularly since the
Plunder Dome trial has highlighted the need for public officials to avoid even
the appearance of a conflict. "I wish they weren't doing it and I think it's
wrong that they're doing it."
Tom Connell, spokesman for the US Attorney's office, declined to comment.
Although Cicilline says he hasn't made any effort to hide his role in teaching
the course with Rose (who supplanted US Attorney Margaret Curran in the
classroom), the juxtaposition was first reported last week by talk show host
Dan Yorke of WPRO-AM, who has criticized Rose for attending a few social events
at Cicilline's home. Cicilline considers Rose a friend, although, he says, they
don't socialize regularly outside of the workplace. Although he didn't announce
until earlier this year, Cicilline's intention to run for mayor has long been
known (see "Battlefield Providence," News, May 18, 2000).
Asked about a potential conflict between Cicilline's mayoral candidacy and
Rose's prosecution of Cianci, Bruce Kogan, interim dean of the Pappito School
of Law, says, "I don't see them as particularly connected." Cicilline and Rose
are "experienced, respected lawyers in their field, and that's why they were
invited to join our faculty -- for the purpose of teaching this class. This is
not about the Plunder Dome prosecution. This class is about how students learn
to deal with a variety of advanced criminal procedural issues."
Bruce A. Green, a former federal prosecutor who directs the Louis Stein Center
for Law and Ethics at Fordham University School of Law, takes a similar view.
"I think most people would say it's very unlikely, realistically speaking,
that the prosecutor is going to try the case any differently or make
discretionary decisions differently because he happens to be co-teaching a
course with someone who is also a candidate for mayor and perhaps would like to
see the defendant convicted," Green says.
The issue of whether this creates a bad appearance and could lead reasonable
people to conclude that the prosecutor is going to be overly zealous is "a
harder question," Green adds. "My own view is that reasonable people are going
to look at this and not think very much of it. In small communities, which this
may not be exactly, prosecutors have all kinds of relationship with people in
the community and are generally trusted to be able to do their job in a
Ian Donnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue Date: May 31 - June 6, 2002