Criminal Defense Group Sues DOJ Over 'Discovery Blue Book'

, Legal Times

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers today sued the U.S. Department of Justice over public access to a criminal discovery "blue book" that was written after the collapse of the case against Ted Stevens.

The Justice Department last year turned down a request from the NACDL for a copy of the Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book. The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Justice Department officials, according to the complaint, cited the book as an example of why federal legislation was unnecessary to prevent future discovery abuses among prosecutors.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill, in 2012, the Justice Department said the blue book was "distributed to prosecutors nationwide in 2011" and "is now electronically available on the desktop of every federal prosecutor and paralegal," according to the NACDL complaint.

"The due process rights of the American people, and how powerful federal prosecutors have been instructed as relates to the safeguarding of those rights, is a matter of utmost Constitutional concern to the public," NACDL President Jerry Cox said in a written statement. "The 'trust us' approach is simply unacceptable. And it is certainly an insufficient basis upon which to resist bipartisan congressional interest in codifying prosecutors’ duty to disclose."

Jones Day partner Kerri Ruttenberg is serving as pro bono counsel to NACDL in the lawsuit against the Justice Department.

Stevens, one of the longest-serving U.S. senators, was charged in 2008 in Washington federal district court with concealing information on financial disclosure reports. The collapse of the case, amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, was a blow to the department and led for calls for reform.

Contact Todd Ruger at truger@alm.com.

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