April 13, 2012
How to Remedy Brady Violations
Circuit Judge Pryor not only voted to deny a rehearing en banc in the Ali Shaygan case seeking Hyde Amendment fees, but he went out of his way to explain his reasoning of why he was not supporting the factfinder district court judge. (see here). His opinion, one that seems likely to be headed for a higher review, looks at why he thinks a Hyde Amendment award was improper in this case. His decision spends several pages explaining what he believes was the evidence against the defendant, who by the way was acquitted after a trial by jury. He notes how defense counsel ( who he does not mention by name - it's David Oscar Markus) is "an elite defense attorney, and Shaygan's superb counsel took advantage of the opportunity to focus the attention of the jury on the alleged misconduct by the government in the collateral investigation."
The district court had granted Shaygan's Hyde Amendment motion and ordered payment of $601,795.88 for attorney fees and costs. The award was a response to a finding of prosecutorial conduct including discovery violations. Circuit Judge Pryor comes to the defense of the prosecutors saying that "[t]hese public servants deserve better." He ends his affirmation of the denial for a rehearing en banc stating that "[t]he prosecution of Shaygan, triggered by the death of his patient and supported by substantial evidence, was not wrong." Check out John Pacenti's article in the Daily Business Review, Eleventh Circuit releases new opinion on Shaygan case, criticizes dissent
The two person dissent to this denial of a rehearing en banc by Circuit Judges Martin and Barkett present a very different picture. They note that U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold's "comprehensive fifty-page Order awarding Hyde Amendment attorneys fees to Dr. Ali Shaygan was 'crowded with thorough findings of fact' detailing government misconduct that took place in his prosecution." They state:
"This Court's opinion also strips our federal judges of a rarely needed, but critical tool for deterring and punishing prosecutorial misconduct. And the prosecutorial misconduct that happened in Dr. Shaygan's case deserved punishment."
This dissent outlines the discovery that was not provided to the defense despite a court order. They state "[t]he government violated Dr. Shaygan's rights, and now, contrary to what Congress has provided, he is left alone to pay the costs he suffered at the hands of these rule breakers."
This case sets up a wonderful review of what should be the role of the Hyde Amendment, who should be the finder of facts when there are allegations of misconduct, what should be the standard of review, and how best to remedy claims of discovery violations. This case also needs to be considered as Congress decides whether to pass Brady legislation.
April 12, 2012
Second Thoughts on The Lafler/Frye Motion
Last week, in a blog entitled "DOJ's Lafler/Frye Motion Goes Too Far," I expressed a strong objection to that prong of the DOJ application that requests that the defense lawyer submit an ex parte document signed by him and the defendant explaining defense counsel's reasoning for rejecting a plea. See here.
I, however, found "generally unobjectionable" the request that the defense lawyer report the plea offer and its rejection in open court. I have, upon reconsideration, changed my mind somewhat and come to the conclusion that plea offers and rejections should not be announced in front of the judge. Rather, any necessary record should be made in writing and not made public, if at all, until the case has been concluded. Such a procedure should amply satisfy DOJ's desire to avoid or minimize post-conviction attacks based on a failure to advise (but admittedly not a failure to give adequate advice).
I fear that if plea offers were to be publicly announced, it could affect the severity of some offers, put arguably inappropriate material before the court, and lead to occasional posturing by both prosecutors and defense lawyers. A prosecutor who is concerned about the legal sufficiency of her case might be hesitant to offer a seemingly lenient plea because she fears that a low plea offer might signal the weakness of her case to the judge, who in the event of a trial, will rule on sufficiency, and perhaps even be the trier of fact. Indeed, she might make an exceedingly harsh offer or no offer at all in the hope that the judge be led to believe she feels she has a strong case. Somewhat similarly, a defense lawyer's announced rejection of a lenient plea, especially if unaccompanied by commentary about the lack of merit of the prosecution, might convey to the triers of fact, the judge or in highly-publicized cases potential jurors, a message that the prosecution case is weak.
Additionally, a prosecutor's failure to offer what a judge believes is a reasonable plea offer or a defendant's rejection of such a plea might well have an adverse effect on a judge with an especial concern in processing cases quickly or keeping his workload in check.
For these and other reasons, most, perhaps all, federal courts prohibit a judge from engaging in plea discussions. (See Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(e)(1): "An attorney for the government and the defendant's attorneys . . . may discuss and reach a plea. The court must not participate in those discussions . . . .") Arguably, a judge's silent awareness of a plea offer and rejection may not be considered "participation," but that is a thin distinction.
Of course, in some jurisdictions, such as New York state courts, judicial involvement in plea bargaining is the norm.
April 11, 2012
Civil Antitrust for Apple and Others
The media is reporting that Apple and others have a lawsuit filed against them by the Department of Justice for alleged price-fixing, violations under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. (see here, here, and here). The Department of Justice Antitrust Division website has an Antitrust Primer here. It states:
"Price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation are generally prosecuted criminally because they have been found to be unambiguously harmful, that is, per se illegal. Such agreements have been shown to defraud consumers and unquestionably raise prices or restrict output without creating any plausible offsetting benefit to consumers, unlike other business conduct that may be the subject of civil lawsuits by the federal government."
See also DOJ Press Release, Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Three of the Largest Book Publishers and Continues to Litigate Against Apple Inc. and Two Other Publishers to Restore Price Competition and Reduce E-book Prices
Computer Use is Not Always Computer Fraud
The Ninth Circuit en banc issued an opinion in the case of United States v. Nosal (Download US v Nosal 9th Cir 2012-04-10). It is not often that we see opinions that interpret section 1030, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But it is also likely that this will be a hot area of the law as Hon. Kozinski, who authored the opinion in this case, begins with the line "[c]omputers have become an indispensable part of our daily lives."
The government charged the defendant with violations of 18 U.S.C.s 1030(a)(4) for allegedly "aiding and abetting" a companies employees "in 'exceed[ing their] authorized access' with intent to defraud." The trial court dismissed certain counts and the government appealed. In affirming the trial court's dismissal, the 9th Circuit states, "[b]asing criminal liability on violations of private computer use polices can transform whole categories of otherwise innocuous behavior into federal crimes simply because a computer is involved." The court finds that "[t]herefore, we hold that 'exceeds authorized access' in the CFAA is limited to violations of restrictions on access to information, and not restrictions on its use."
The Ninth Circuit makes a point of noting the jurisdictional split that exists with respect to this issue. The court states,
"[w]e therefore respectfully decline to follow our sister circuits and urge them to reconsider instead. For our part, we continue to follow in the path blazed by Brekka, 581 F.3d 1127, and the growing number of courts that have reached the same conclusion. These courts recognize that the plain language of the CFAA 'target[s] the unauthorized procurement or alteration of information, not its misuse or misappropriation.'"
The decision uses the Rule of Lenity and sends word to Congress that if it "wants to incorporate misappropriation liability into the CFAA, it must speak more clearly."
The court rejects an argument we often hear from the government - trust us - we won't prosecute cases that should not be prosecuted. The court noted that most individuals are unaware of the terms of service agreements of internet providers including one major company that until recently "forbade minors from using its services." The court stated, "we shouldn’t have to live at the mercy of our local prosecutor. . . And it’s not clear we can trust the government when a tempting target comes along."(citations omitted).
(esp)(hat tip to Evan Jenness)
April 10, 2012
Upcoming Conferences & Webcasts
NACDL 2d Annual West Coast White Collar Conference - June 7-8, Lake Tahoe here
New York City Bar, 1st Annual White Collar Crime Institute - May 14, 2012 here (50% discounts off of member and non-member prices for government and public interest attorneys, students and academics; 50% discounts off of member and non-member prices for attorneys working for the District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Legal Aid, New York Inspector General’s Office and other Law organizations; 20% discounts off of member and non-member prices for firms and corporations that register 4 or more people for this program).
WestLegalCenter, Defending Corporations and Individuals in Government Investigation - Conducting Effective Internal Investigations, (includes Daniel J. Fetterman and Mark Goodman) here (provides an interesting discussion on different aspects of an internal investigation).
In the News & Around the Blogosphere
Mike Scarcella, BLT Blog, Clemens Quarrels With DOJ Over Access To Law Firm's Notes
Attorney Michael Volkov joins LeClairRyan here
Mike Scarcella & Todd Ruger, National LJ, law.com, Competing fixes for bribery law - DOJ to issue new guidance, as Congress weighs big reforms
A. Brian Albritton, False Claims Act & Qui Tam Law Blog, Wellcare Health Plans Agrees to Pay $137.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Case; DOJ Press Release, Florida-Based Wellcare Health Plans Agrees to Pay $137.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations; AP, Miami Herald, Bondi: Florida to get $54 million from settlement
Katheryn Hayes Tucker, Daily Report, Nursing home lawyer-owner is convicted of health fraud - Judge finds that U.S. paid defendant $33 million for 'worthless services'
Jennifer Peltz, AP, Ex-Tyco CEO loses parole bid in New York
David Voreacos, Bloomberg, U.S. Tax-Evasion Probes Said to Slow as Prosecutors Transfer
Peter Jackson, AP, Daily Times, 3 Pa. GOP corruption defendants get probation
April 9, 2012
Baseball Investigators' Notes Should Be Disclosed To Government
BLT: The Blog of Legal Times reports that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington recently asked to review notes made by attorneys for DLA Piper, including George Mitchell, during interviews of persons such as Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski who are expected to be government witnesses in the trial of Roger Clemens. See here. Judge Reggie Walton had ordered that these notes, made by the lawyers in their investigation of drug use by baseball players, be produced to the defense over DLA Piper's objection. The government took no position on the defense application for production.
Now, claiming that the government "did not lift a finger" to secure the notes, Clemens' attorneys ask Judge Walton to deny the government access to the notes. Otherwise, the court will "reward the prosecution for taking a head-in-the-sand approach," they claim.
I cannot agree with Clemens' position. Discovery is not a one-way street either for the government or for the defense. Both parties should be equally entitled to the documents. Even objections to production of documents by third parties should not operate as a waiver to review the documents, if they are produced. Although the defense, unlike the government, has no obligation to produce material harmful to its case, when relevant documents are secured by court order from third parties, absent special circumstances such as privilege, they should be available to both sides. A contrary rule would conceal information from defendants much more than from prosecutors.
April 8, 2012
Global Tech Raised in Second Circuit
In a Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing en Banc, defense counsel raises that the Second Circuit did not consider the Supreme Court's recent decision in Global Tech (for more discussion on this case see here and here). The defense argues that the 2009 conviction of Frederic Bourke Jr. for conspiracy to violate the FCPA and for making false statements was affirmed, but the jury was not apprised that reckless conduct was insufficient for conscious avoidance. Global Tech was issued after oral argument in the case.
Petition for Rehearing - Download Bourkeca2rehearingpetition