Orleans County District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has been ordered to disclose the names of all the prosecutors in his office who used “fake subpoenas” to compel witnesses to talk with them. Cannizzaro was given 20 days to produce the names of prosecutors who engaged in the practice during 2017. He then must provide the same information going back to 2013.
As In Justice Today previously reported, Cannizzaro sought to jail a domestic violence victim after she refused to respond to a fake subpoena his office sent her demanding that she meet with them. The documents had the word “subpoena” at the top of the page even though they had not been signed by a judge, meaning that disobeying them would not be a criminal offense.
The district attorney faced a substantial backlash about the fake subpoenas, with some calling for Cannizzaro to be removed from office. A spokesman for Cannizzaro said the fake subpoenas would no longer go out and would be replaced with documents that said “notice to appear.”
The ACLU of Louisiana asked Cannizzaro to provide information identifying the lawyers in his office who issued or authorized the fake subpoenas. When he refused, the organization sued under Louisiana’s open record laws.
Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott agreed that the information was a public record and ordered Cannizzaro to comply.
The MacArthur Justice Center and The Lens, a non-profit news site that first reported on the fake subpoenas, have also sued Cannizzaro’s office asking for information.
The use of fake subpoenas is not the only controversy that Cannizzaro has generated concerning witnesses. The New Orleans Advocate recently profiled a shooting victim who was jailed after Cannizzaro’s office feared he would not testify against the man accused of shooting him at trial.
Cannizzaro has also jailed rape victims who refused to testify against their attacker. The New Orleans Advocate reported that in 2016 one woman was jailed for eight days after refusing to testify against the man who raped her.