Platte County Prosecutor Eric Glen Zahnd
JEFFERSON CITY (St. Louis Record) — Platte County prosecutor Eric Glen Zahnd has been reprimanded and Kansas City attorney Doc Netterville IV has been suspended following separate May 22 Missouri Supreme Court orders.
The high court reprimanded Zahnd and ordered him to pay costs over allegations he had violated professional conduct rules. Zahnd had publicly named and criticized residents of a Deerborn who defended Darren Paden, whom Zahnd successfully prosecuted in 2015 for the at least decade-long sexual abuse of a child. The high court's order did not mention Paden but said it found Zahnd had violated rules governing respect for the rights of third persons and misconduct and that Zahnd "should be disciplined."
Zahnd was admitted to the bar in Missouri on Oct. 4, 1996, according to his profile at The Missouri Bar's website.
Zahnd has said his comments were protected by the First Amendment and in his 124-page corrected brief, Zahnd alleged that truth is an "absolute defense" for attorneys facing discipline. "Under the First Amendment, a lawyer cannot be disciplined for recounting truthful, public information regarding a judicial proceeding that has concluded," Zahnd said in his corrected brief. "No lawyer in any American jurisdiction has ever been disciplined for reciting truthful, public information about a court case after the case has concluded."
While the state Supreme Court's order does not directly address Zahnd's claim to absolute defense, the court's summary of the case said Zahnd's peers in the legal profession argue that he had violated rule of professional conduct.
"The national and state associations of criminal defense lawyers argue the conduct of Zahnd and his subordinates violates the rules of professional responsibility and professional standards for prosecutors and undermines confidence in the justice system; his contacts with the letter writers was to threaten or intimidate them into retracting their letters; and the content of the news release mischaracterized events, included information that was not part of Paden's criminal case and did not constitute protected speech under the First Amendment," the summary said.
In an order unrelated to Zahnd's reprimand, the state high court suspended Netterville indefinitely with no leave to apply for reinstatement until two years after the date of the court's order. The court handed down the suspension after finding Netterville violated rules governing competence, diligence, communication, safekeeping property and misconduct.