The Law Is A Ass #430: Flash’s DA Should Have Said, “Well, Recuse Me!”
“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”
Oh great. It’s not bad enough I’m in a Godfather movie, so I probably have the life expectancy of a mayfly in a cancer ward, I’m in The Godfather: Part III. Still, even The Godfather: Part III would be preferable to where I’m actually going. You guessed it; “The Trial of The Flash.”
Just in case your family took you out of school to go down to Disney World so you don’t know what we’ve been doing for the past three weeks, we’re talking about the episode of The Flash in which The Flash’s secret identity of Barry Allen was on trial for murdering Clifford DeVoe. Barry didn’t kill Devoe. He was framed.
I thought I had covered just about everything this episode had to offer. But the episode contradicted me. It was large, it contained multitudes. There are a couple of aspects I haven’t touched on. Until now. They both have to do with Cecille Horton, Barry’s defense attorney.
When Cecille was introduced, she called herself the district attorney of Central City. And that’s what her entry in the Arrowverse Wiki says she is, the Central City District Attorney. But every time Cecille ever did something, her every action made herself seem like a district attorney for the county, not Central City. I realize the show could have been indulging in shorthand. The show might not have wanted to specify the name of the county that contains Central City. So rather than say Cecille was the District Attorney of Yada Yada County, it just said she was the Central City District Attorney. But the show kept having her do things more consistent with the County District Attorney, not the Central City District Attorney.
There is a huge difference between a city district attorney and a county district attorney. So let me elucidate on the elusive state of DA differences.
Most states have cities and counties. (Two states – Alaska and Louisiana, parish the thought – don’t have counties.) The Flash takes place in Missouri, so said the episode “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” and Missouri has counties.
Something else most states have is city courts and county courts. Missouri has both types of courts. Missouri calls its county courts circuit courts, but what’s in a name other than four letters? The function of Missouri’s circuit courts, like the function of all county courts, is to be the court of original jurisdiction for the county. City courts, on the other hand, are the courts of original jurisdiction for the city in which they sit. Both city courts and county courts handle civil and criminal matters. We’re concerned with criminal matters, so we’ll leave the civil matters alone. Just as well, people tell me I’m not very good at being civil anyway.
City courts handle criminal violations of the city’s ordinances . These crimes are misdemeanors; less serious crimes such as simple theft, simple assault, or simple simonizing. County courts are responsible for prosecuting felonies. You know the big crimes like murder, kidnapping, or arson; the kind that are featured in TV shows, because no one wants to a watch an hour of someone on trial for jaywalking.
Cities have district attorney offices. So do counties. The city’s DA office prosecutes people charged with violating city ordinances in a city court. The county DA’s office would be responsible for prosecuting felonies, which are violations of state law, not city ordinances.
If Cecille were the Central City District Attorney, she would be a municipal prosecutor and her office would only handle misdemeanors. However, Cecille frequently involved herself in felony matters which would be beyond the scope of a city DA. So I think Cecille was supposed to be the County DA, but the show referred to her as the Central City DA because it didn’t have to name the county. Moreover, the show said Cecille was the district attorney, not a district attorney. That would mean Cecille wasn’t an assistant district attorney – like Michael Moriarty’s character on Law & Order – but the county DA – like Stephen Hill’s character on Law & Order.
And therein lies one of those multitudes I was talking about. Make Cecille the county DA, not an assistant DA, and neither she nor her office could have prosecuted Barry Allen.
See, in addition to being the county DA, Cecille was also the fiancée of Detective Joe West of the Central City Police Department. Yes, the same Joe West who happened to be both Barry Allen’s foster father and Barry’s current father-in-law. That means Cecille was about become Barry’s mother-in-law and his foster step-mother. I’m not sure even Albert Einstein could solve that particular theory of relativity, but what it boils down to is that Cecille is part of Barry’s family.
Cecille would have a conflict of interests and wouldn’t be able to prosecute a family member. If Cecille were just an assistant district attorney, her office could have Chinese walled Cecille so that she was insulated and never had any contact or dealings with the ADAs handling Barry’s case. But if Cecille is the county district attorney not an ADA – and she’s billed as the district attorney not a district attorney – then she’d be responsible for overseeing everyone’s work in the office and that wall wouldn’t be of China so much as it would of Jericho. If Cecille is the county DA, her whole office would have had to recuse itself from Barry’s case and the Attorney General would have appointed a special prosecutor to handle it.
Moreover, if Cecille were the county district attorney, there is simply no way she would be able to take a leave of absence from the DA’s office to handle Barry’s defense. She would have had privileged work product information of how the case against Barry was prepared. Barry may have the constitutional right to the attorney of his choice, but that choice would be trumped by the Code of Professional Responsibility. Not even the attorney of choice may represent someone if that representation is an ethical violation.
However, Cecille’s office wasn’t removed and Cecille was able to represent Barry. So maybe Cecille is just the Central City district attorney and not the county district attorney. And maybe I don’t know what kind of district attorney Cecille is, city or county. However, even if I don’t know what kind of DA Cecille is, as I’ve said before, I know what kind of lawyer she is.
A bad one.