The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued disciplinary sanctions on August 31, 2023, against three former assistant attorneys general for their roles in the fallout from the drug lab scandal involving chemist Sonja Farak at the state drug lab in Amherst. The case stemmed from bar disciplinary petitions filed in June 2019 against Kris Foster, Anne Kaczmarek, and John Verner related to their involvement in the prosecution of Farak and failure to disclose exculpatory evidence during that prosecution.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Kris C. Foster & others,” with case no. SJC-13360.
A special hearing officer held an evidentiary hearing over 23 days from September 2020 to December 2020. In July 2021, the officer issued a report finding violations of various Massachusetts rules of professional conduct by each of the prosecutors. For Verner, the violations included failing to adequately supervise Kaczmarek and ensure exculpatory information was disclosed. For Foster, the violations involved incompetent handling of subpoenas and making misleading statements to a judge. Kaczmarek was found to have intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence and made false statements to other prosecutors.
In October 2021, the hearing officer recommended sanctions of a public reprimand for Verner, a one-year-and-one-day suspension for Foster, and a two-year suspension for Kaczmarek. The Board of Bar Overseers then appealed, seeking harsher penalties. In June 2022, the board recommended a three-month suspension for Verner, keeping the one-year-and-one-day suspension for Foster, and disbarring Kaczmarek.
The Supreme Judicial Court adopted these recommendations after considering arguments on appeal. For Verner, the court found his reliance on Kaczmarek’s misrepresentations mitigating but still issued a public reprimand due to aggravating factors like the harm caused. For Foster, the court endorsed the one-year-and-one-day suspension due to her incompetence and lack of candor. Finally, the court disbarred Kaczmarek, finding her most culpable for intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence for years from 2013 to 2014.
The case stemmed from Farak’s misconduct at the Amherst drug lab from 2004 to 2013, where she tampered with drug samples. Her prosecutions between January 2013 and April 2014 for related charges revealed systemic failures by the prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence of the full scope of her actions. As a result, thousands of convictions were later dismissed. The disciplinary sanctions sought to address the serious misconduct and harm caused in the Farak drug lab scandal.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.