Well, it's about time the United States Department of Justice stepped and authored a new memorandum for federal prosecutors to follow regarding discovery issues. But this begs the question: Why haven't prosecutors followed been following the law (and their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution), automatically?
Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden issued three Memorandum to DOJ prosecutors presumably intended to remedy some of the setbacks and debacles the Department suffered last year as a result of serious discovery violations in federal felony prosecutions.
The subject of one of the Memos is “Guidance for Prosecutors Regarding Criminal Discovery.” The second Memo reference is “Issuance of Guidance and Summary of Actions Taken in Response to the Report of the Department of Justice Criminal Discovery and Case Management Working Group.” Finally, a separate Memo is address to all DOJ litigating components and all U.S. Attorneys.
Taking the "Memo to the U.S. Attorneys and DOJ Components" first, Odgen summarizes that he had convened a working group to address DOJ policies and practices regarding criminal discovery issues. Odgen references that he is sending to all DOJ trial attorneys and AUSAs a memo containing Guidance For Prosecutors Regarding Criminal Discovery that prosecutors should follow to ensure that discovery obligations are met in all future cases. Interestingly, Odgen directs that each U.S. Attorney’s Office develop a discovery policy consistent with the law and local rules and practices. That policy must be in place by March 31, 2010.
Again, again again, why must Ogden issue a memorandum containing guidance for federal prosecutors regarding criminal discovery? I mean, it's the law. FOLLOW IT. Clearly this is an issue of prosoecutors not following the rules of ethics. They know the law. I mean, really....
The “Guidance For Prosecutors Regarding Criminal Discovery” Memo sets out detailed steps prosecutors are to follow regarding discovery. The six page Memo first advises that the prosecutors must determine who is a member of the “Prosecution Team” for the purpose of determining what documents must be reviewed for disclosure.
The Guidance Memo then directs that the discovery review should cover the following: 1) the investigative agency’s files, 2) Confidential Informant/Witness/Source files, 3) Evidence and Information Gathered During the Investigation, 4) Documents or Evidence Gathered by Civil Attorneys and/or Regulatory Agencies in Parallel Civil Investigations, 5) Substantive Case Related Communications, 6) Potential Giglio Information Relating to Law Enforcement Witnesses, 7) Potential Giglio Information Relating to Non-Law Enforcement Witnesses and Fed.R.Evid. 806 Declarants, 8) Information Obtained in Witness Interviews, a) Witness Statement Variations and the Duty to Disclose, b) Trial Preparation Meetings With Witnesses and c) Agent Notes.
The Guidance Memo then directs that although prosecutors may delegate the process of review to others, they “should not delegate the disclosure determination itself.”
The Guidance Memo reminds prosecutors that discovery within DOJ is covered by the U.S. Attorney’s Manual Section 9-5.001, which is broader than what the law requires and that if a prosecutor chooses to follow that broader course, “defense counsel should be reminded that the prosecutor is electing to produce discovery beyond what is required . . .” The Memo then addresses the scope, timing and form of discovery disclosures, but cautions that, “[p]rosecutors should never describe the discovery being provided as ‘open file.’”
Finally, the Guidance Memo counsels that the prosecutor should make a good record regarding the disclosures.
The “Issuance of Guidance and Summary of Actions Taken in Response to the Report of the Department of Justice Criminal Discovery and Case Management Working Group” Memo reminds prosecutors of the words of Justice Sutherland that it is the prosecutor’s duty is “that justice shall be done.” Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78, 88 (1935). This Memo informs prosecutors of the establishment of the Guidance Memo set out above and that each U.S. Attorney’s Office shall have a “discovery coordinator.” In addition, DOJ has:
• Created an online directory of resources pertaining to discovery issues that will be available to all prosecutors at their desktop;
• Produced a Handbook on Discovery and Case Management similar to the Grand Jury Manual so that prosecutors will have a one-stop resource that addresses various topics relating to discovery obligations;
• Implemented a training curriculum and a mandatory training program for paralegals and law enforcement agents;
• Revitalized the Computer Forensics Working Group to address the problem of properly cataloguing electronically stored information recovered as part of federal investigations;
• Created a pilot case management project to fully explore the available case management software and possible new practices to better catalogue law enforcement investigative files and to ensure that all the information is transmitted in the most useful way to federal prosecutors.
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