NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended a federal prosecutor from practicing law for one year for hiding a secret romantic relationship with an FBI agent who testified at criminal cases she brought to trial.
Mignonne Griffing admitted that she failed at her obligation to disclose the relationship she had with the married FBI special agent, who was often the lead law enforcement agent on many of the white collar and public corruption cases she prosecuted while she was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District of Louisiana.
Griffing, however, denied the relationship created a conflict of interest and fought back against formal charges filed by the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Council. She served a 19-day suspension without pay for her professional misconduct and has been working as an appellate attorney for the Department of Justice, according to court records.
But the state’s high court found Wednesday that Griffing’s multiple violations of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct called for the suspension of her law license for one year and one day, considering her “dishonesty and misrepresentation.”
“Because the relationship with the FBI agent could reasonably give rise to a basis for questioning the interest and/or credibility of the witness by the defense, the existence of the relationship should have been disclosed to the defendants, but respondent failed to do so,” the unsigned ruling states.
The undisclosed relationship was unveiled during the trial of two Monroe city councilmen and the Ouachita Parish sheriff when the possibility of the relationship was raised by the sheriff’s attorney. Griffing denied the relationship.
According to the Louisiana Supreme Court’s 16-page ruling, Griffing’s misconduct forced the government to relitigate the case against the two city councilmen and adversely impacted a plea bargain offered to the sheriff.
“In addition, the disciplinary board found respondent made assurances to the sheriff’s counsel relative to his client’s indictment and arrest. This conduct, and her phone call threatening the sheriff’s public arrest, were clearly improper,” the opinion states.
The Louisiana high court’s decision handed down a stiffer punishment than the six-month suspension a hearing committee from the Office of Disciplinary Council agreed to. The council had urged the committee to reconsider the sanction.
The disciplinary board’s findings determined that Griffing “knowingly violated duties owed to her client, the public, and the legal system.”
“Her actions are the type that cause unfavorable opinion by the public towards the legal system and especially, the United States Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisiana,” Wednesday’s ruling states.