Thursday, February 17, 2005
The amicus brief filed by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), New York Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (below), is not the usual brief filed by a criminal defense lawyers' group. But the authors of the brief admit to this in the opening passages of the brief when they "acknowledge that this brief presents an unusual subject matter for an amicus brief."
As opposed to a brief focused on a substantive legal issue, the amici argue that there was a "breakdown of the adversary process, in which there should be a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and an impartial judge acting as arbiter between them." The brief then states that "the trial court abandoned that position in favor of transparent bias against the defendant, and unprovoked antagonism toward defense counsel." Examples to support this claim are found throughout the brief.
The brief catalogs the conduct into six areas, that include an argument of "the trial court's different standard of relevance for the prosecution and defense evidence." It also presents a claim of the trial court's sua sponte interruptions of the presentation of the defense case." For example, the support for the claim of a difference in treatment to prosecution and defense counsel when discussing sua sponte interruptions by the trial court is a listing of transcript pages to show that "[e]xcluding interruptions about needing to orient or to hear better, the transcript reveals five sua sponte interruptions to government examinations . . . ., while in contrast, there were more than firty sua sponte interruptions to defense examinations. . . "
This is without doubt a highly unusual amicus brief. But it is clearly an important one in that amici are sending a strong message that trials that place defense counsel in a lesser position than the prosecution should not be tolerated.