on the window but you don’t close them?” Gershman questioned. “Even with the Fourth Amendment, we have to take precautions for our privacy sometimes. I think he’s going to be hard-pressed to say he was spied upon if he could have taken the precaution of closing the blinds and did not.”
Meanwhile, John Burkoff, a 41year University of Pittsburgh law professor who also specializes in prosecutorial ethics, said that the operation of the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office will likely be strained by the fallout of the charges.
“It makes it far more difficult for the office to operate, because any defendant’s lawyer will surely stand up and say, ‘Hey the state’s
attorney’s conduct may be worse than my client,’” he said.
Burkoff confirmed that a defendant would have no useful legal argument for such a stance, but he or she may have an emotional one.
“Juries are made up of people who consider a lot of things, including the emotions of a case,” he noted. “But he has no legal obligation to recuse or excuse himself from any aspect of his job while this is being adjudicated. And while it’s clearly embarrassing to him and the office, he’s still innocent until proven guilty.”
Gershman, who previously served as a New York City prosecutor, agreed that there is no legal requirement from Rollins, the county’s elected top prosecutor, to take a leave of absence, but added that “it might be the most prudent thing to do if he cannot escape (the charges’) impact.” Gershman added that he suspected that the
office’s 10 assistant state’s attorneys and deputy state’s attorney would shoulder a slightly heavier load in order to insulate any arguments against their boss.
“You see incidents where this happens with public officials, but it doesn’t stop them from serving in their role,” he said. “For instance, (Bill) Clinton didn’t stop being a president when he was impeached.”
In addition to the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office, Rollins may see some inquiry from the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which investigates the conduct of lawyers in the state for potential sanctions.
If Rollins were to be found guilty of one of the charged crimes, he could be subject to removal from office under Maryland’s State Constitution, which lists incompetency, willful ne-
glect of duty, misdemeanor in office or conviction in a court of law as reasons for dismissal. The four Cecil County Circuit Court judges would appoint a replacement for Rollins’ remaining two years or so in his elected term in such a scenario. An heir apparent is difficult to establish as the deputy state’s attorney, Steve Trostle, is not a Cecil County resident as would be required by state law.
If acquitted of the charges, however, Rollins may still face the court of public opinion, although Gershman added that the perception may not be as bad as the charges.
“I would hope that a person could continue to serve the public if the accusations are proven unmerited,” he said. “If the public continues to hold unsubstantiated charges against someone, then what is our presumption of innocence worth? Fortunately or
unfortunately, people are going to see what they want to see.”
Burkoff noted that the true fallout of the case may not be the potential criminal penalties at all.
“There’s two kinds of impact: that of the personal embarrassment for him and his family and that of his political future,” he said.
Both legal experts agreed that the charges would severely hamper Rollins’ chances of being appointed to the vacant Cecil County Circuit Court judgeship for which he just reached the “short list” less than a month ago.
“It’s a cloud over his candidacy for the circuit court, that’s pretty clear,” Gershman said. “His chances have been considerably lessened.”
“This won’t help, because it simply won’t be resolved by then,” Burkoff added. “The timing just couldn’t have been worse.”