Thursday, June 21, 2007

Flashback: Greatest Hits of Jim Hardin, Vol. XII

"Judge orders DA to look for more police subpoenas" - Jaleh Hagigh, The News & Observer (May 19, 1994)

Eight months ago, Durham police admitted improperly using subpoenas to get the telephone records of private citizens who weren't under criminal investigation.

The admission came after three lawyers filed a lawsuit to gain access to the subpoenas, which they contend are public documents that the police department was concealing.

Now those lawyers have turned their attention to District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr. On Friday, a judge granted a motion by the lawyers and ordered Hardin to turn over any additional subpoenas that might exist in his office. The judge asked Hardin to make a "reasonable inquiry" into the matter, including interviewing staff members, and to search his office if necessary.

Lawyers Alex Charns and Bill Goldston said they think there is at least one such subpoena in Hardin's office. They also claimed victory, saying the judge agreed with them that the documents are public records.

"Their defense was, 'We don't have to turn them over because they're illegal,' and our argument was it would be a real travesty of justice if the district attorney could conceal illegal subpoenas on the grounds they were illegal," Goldston said.


The illegal use of subpoenas by police was revealed last year after Charns and Goldston filed suit in Durham Superior Court. In September, police officials conceded that officers had photocopied at least 20 times a blank subpoena that included the signature of a prosecutor. Police used the documents to get phone records from GTE South in 1991 as part of an investigation into allegations that a prostitution ring was operating out of police headquarters under then-chief Trevor Hampton. The probe turned up no such evidence.

The records listed phone calls made by people and businesses that had not been charged with any crimes. ... Police tried to keep the documents secret but then turned over 37 subpoenas.

The suit against the district attorney originally named Ron Stephens, who was Durham's top prosecutor at the time and is now a Superior Court judge. The suit now names Hardin as the main defendant.

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