April 06, 2012
Will the Supremes Take a Discovery Case
In the wake of the Schuelke/Shields report and the introduction of new discovery legislation, one has to wonder whether the Supreme Court will take a case that raises a Brady discovery issue. At their doorsteps is the case of James A. Brown, a case from the Enron days. As previously noted (here) Brown, is a former Merrill Lynch executive who "was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his testimony before the Enron grand jury about a transaction between Merrill and Enron in late 1999." There are important issues here like the appropriate standard of review for Brady cases. Should it be "clear error" or should it be de novo. (see here) The case also examines "materiality," a term that has created some confusion. What must a prosecutor provide to the defense counsel. And isn't it odd that the adversary in the process is making the determination for what the defense is entitled to receive. The case looks at summaries being provided to defense counsel. Bottom line - summaries are not the same as the real thing.
In the reply brief recently filed, they argue-
"Here, as in Stevens, many exculpatory statements appear only in raw notes of government interviews of key players. In Brown, the Enron Task Force actually yellow-highlighted these notes before trial – along with prior testimony and FBI 302s – indicating that the information met the requirements of Brady and was material, but suppressed them anyway. While continuing to deny that any evidence fell within Brady, new prosecutors recently disclosed 6,300 pages including much (but still not all) of the evidence suppressed by the Task Force." (Reply Brief - Download FILED REPLY ON CERT.)
The government's brief sees things differently - Download SG OPP32312.
This case is distributed for conference on April 20th.
April 01, 2012
The Department of Justice and the Culture of Non-Disclosure
We don't need new legislation insuring that defendants receive the exculpatory information they are entitled to under the U.S. Constitution, because the DOJ has learned its lesson from the Ted Stevens case and will NEVER let something like that happen again.
For example, in the high-profile insider trading case of U.S. v. Rajat Gupta, the DOJ recently argued that its prosecutors did NOT have to review 44 SEC interview memos for Brady material, even though the memos summarized interview sessions jointly conducted by SEC and DOJ attorneys. According to SDNY prosecutors, the overall DOJ and SEC investigations were not technically "joint" in nature, so SDNY AUSAs had no Brady obligations with respect to the SEC memos. The SEC attorneys were capable of conducting the Brady review on their own. Yeah, right. Just like the FBI and IRS Special Agents were capable of conducting the Brady review in U.S. v. Stevens. I completely forgot about the Brady training that SEC attorneys receive on a regular basis. DOJ's position is not only contrary to SDNY and Second Circuit case law--it also violates the letter and spirit of the Ogden Memo, promulgated after Stevens to prevent future Brady debacles. I guess SDNY didn't get the memo. (They're special you know.) Judge Jed Rakoff was having none of it. See his Gupta Brady Ruling, issued last week, for details. In truth, all of the SEC memos should be turned over in their entirety to the defense, just as all of the 302s and MOIs in Stevens should have been turned over.
It is clear that the DOJ has learned almost nothing from the Ted Stevens case. Suppression of exculpatory and/or potentially exculpatory evidence is largely not an issue at the line level. The typical AUSA knows Brady/Giglio when he sees it, and knows to disclose it. The problems tend to arise in high profile cases, particularly those captained out of DC. The sickness extends to very high levels at the DOJ. The Stevens prosecution clearly showed this. The Bill Allen-Bambi Tyree subornation of perjury allegation, reported in 2004 to a federal judge by DOJ prosecutors in a sealed pleading, was classic Giglio material. It should have instantly been recognized as such by the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Unit and they should have ordered it turned over immediately to the defense. It wasn't and they didn't.
The DOJ has run out of scandals and excuses. Enough already. At long last, have they no shame?
March 26, 2012
Schuelke-Shields Report: We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident
1. Compost flows downhill.
2. I'd rather be a hammer than a nail. I'd rather be a supervisor than a line assistant.
3. If I am an experienced prosecutor and supervisor and agree to take over and lead the prosecution team a few days prior to the Indictment, I need to lead that team and take responsibility for my actions and the team's actions.
4. If I am prosecuting a white collar case involving hundreds of FBI 302s and I don't hand them over to the defense before trial, I am virtually guaranteeing Brady error.
5. If I am prosecuting a white collar case involving hundreds of FBI 302s and I don't hand them over to the defense before trial AND I am going up against a United States Senator who is represented by a highly skilled law firm known for its tenacious tactics, I am a fool. I deserve what I get. But the people who work for me don't necessarily deserve what they get.
6. If I prosecute a sitting U.S. Senator in July, knowing that he is up for re-election in November and assuming that he will seek a speedy trial, I better have my discovery, especially my Brady discovery, ready to hand over on the day of the Indictment.
7. If my case has hundreds of 302s, it is likely that some of the agent's interview notes will contain material inconsistent with, or not referenced in, the 302s
8. If four prosecutors and one case agent interview the key prosecution witness three months before Indictment, and the interview goes poorly, AND no 302 is generated, people aren't going to think well of them. This is especially true if the FBI Special Agent later admits that no 302 was written because, "the debriefing...did not go well," and the prosecutors completely forget about the interview and the Brady information gleaned during it.
9. If I discover Brady information, it does not magically lose its character as Brady material because I decide to investigate further and develop contrary information.
March 16, 2012
Schuelke-Shields Report: Williams & Connolly Analysis
Here is the Williams & Connolly Analysis of the Schuelke-Shields Report. It is an excellent dissection, by Brendan Sullivan and Robert Cary, of the rampant prosecutorial misconduct permeating the Ted Stevens case.
March 15, 2012
Schuelke-Shields Report: Executive Summary
For all of those who do not have time to read a 500-plus page report and the responses, here is the Schuelke-Shields Report Executive Summary.
Schuelke-Shields: The Prosecutors Respond
In the interest of fairness, here are the responses of the federal prosecutors mentioned in the Schuelke-Shields Report. Submission of Brenda K. Morris, Submission of Edward P. Sullivan, Submission of James A. Goeke, Submission of Joseph W. Bottini, Submission of William M. Welch III, Submission on behalf of Nicholas A. Marsh.
Mr. Goeke also submitted his own separate appendix. Here it is. James A. Goeke Appendix.
The Schuelke-Shields Report
And here it is, the Schuelke-Shields Report--detailing the prosecutorial misconduct in the U.S.Department of Justice's Ted Stevens prosecution.
March 08, 2012
Dog Bites Man: AG Holder Testifies That Schuelke Report Contains Disturbing Findings
BLT has the story here. Holder was testifying on Capitol Hill. Senator Dianne Feinstein complained that Senator Stevens died "before he knew this was a faulty prosecution. That to me elevates this to a new height." In fact, the case was dismissed with prejudice due to prosecutorial misconduct while Stevens was very much alive.
March 03, 2012
2012 ABA White Collar Crime Conference - Recent Trials
The official opening of the 26th Annual ABA White Collar Crime Conference began with opening remarks from Raymond Banoun, chair of the Institute, followed by remarks of the chair-elect of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, William "Bill" Shepherd of Holland & Knight. Shepherd noted how the ABA includes all aspects of criminal justice (prosecutors, judges, and criminal defense lawyers). He encouraged folks to get involved in the section.
The first panel, titled Recent Trials, featured three recent cases: Raj Rajaratnam, Loren Stevens, and the Lee B. Farkus trials.
The moderator, Ronald J. Nessim, took the speakers through several topics, including the Indictment, key pre-trial issues in each case, the media, discovery, proffers, parallel proceedings, joint defense agreements, and the trial.
Discussing the Farkus case, the prosecutor on the case -Charles Connolly-talked about the issue of how do you simplify a complex fraud scheme to make it understandable for the jury, and what schemes do you charge. Professor Bruce Rogow, defense counsel on the Farkus case, responded that the Indictment was too long and too difficult. Sara Bloom, the prosecutor handling the Lauren Stevens case said the indictment was narrowly tailed. Defense Counsel Reid Weingarten responded that he is still astonished that Lauren Stevens was indicted. Jonathan Streeter, prosecutor on the Rajaratnam case, noted that he did not try to include everything in the indictment. Simplification was a key theme throughout his comments on this panel. John M. Dowd, defending Rajaratnam, discussed the bill of particulars. He emphasized that the case was really not about wire fraud, although that was the basis for the wiretap.
The government power in these prosecutions was brought to life in the discussion of the venue issue in the Farkus case and the perp walk in the Rajaratnam case. The audience was clearly perturbed by the use of a perp walk in the Rajaratnam case, where the accused had cooperated for three years, had no record, was arrested in his apartment, handcuffed for some time at the station, and finally paraded in a perp walk. This was described by defense counsel as "toxic and prejudicial" and the audience applause to that statement sounded like there was agreement. Perp walks need to stop.
Interestingly none of the defense counsel expressed major discovery problems in their cases. Connolly, the prosecutor on the Farkus case, noted how they made the sixty million documents available to defense – they made a mirror imagine for defense and set up weekly conference calls with the defense. That said, John M. Dowd pointed out problems with items such as the affidavit for the wiretap and Bruce Rogow discussed problems with respect to cooperation in the Farkus case coming on the eve of trial. He also noted how the inability during trial to go into certain motivations by cooperating witnesses made his case difficult.
Reid Weingarten emphasized that one needs to think carefully before agreeing to a proffer. He noted that once you make a proffer it is problem putting the client on the witness stand.
Sara Bloom and Reid Weingarten briefly discussed how the government refused to waive a jury trial, despite the defense agreeing to do so in the Stevens case. There was also a discussion about joint defense agreements, and John Dowd noted that when you put a joint defense agreement in writing that is the first act of mistrust.
A key word used throughout this panel by the government was simplify - one needs to make a white collar case understandable to the jury.
(esp)(Blogging from Miami)
February 21, 2012
Move Over Ted Stevens, Here Comes Dr. Jordan: DOJ's Next Brady Scandal?
[All of the facts in this post come from the 11th Circuit opinion in United States v. Ignasiak, publicly available on the 11th Circuit's website (here) or from PACER.]
Arthur Jordan used a counterfeit badge and posed as an on-duty U.S. Marshal in order to carry firearms onto commercial airplanes while on personal travel. He did this nine times. According to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Jordan's "criminal conduct" resulted in "multiple violations" of 18 U.S.C. Sections 912 and 1001 and 49 U.S.C. Section 46505, and "could have been charged as felonies."
But Jordan wasn't even charged with a misdemeanor. He got pretrial diversion from the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office, paid $2,000.00, and agreed never to carry firearms on an airplane again, except while on official business.
Jordan is not your everyday citizen. He is none other than Dr. Arthur Jordan, who goes around the country testifying as an expert for the U.S. Government in Health Care Fraud/Controlled Substances Act prosecutions against pain management physicians. He charges $300 per hour and, during his November 2008 testimony in U.S. v. Ignasiak, claimed to have earned around $30,000.00 as a government expert up to that point in time. Dr. Jordan was the key government expert against Robert Ignasiak in the latter's criminal jury trial, testifying for almost three days. (Roy Black was lead defense counsel during the trial.)
But there's much more to the story. Given its reversal, and its finding that the evidence was sufficient, the 11th Circuit declined to address the other issues raised by Ignasiak on appeal--except for one.
You see, none of the Ignasiak defense attorneys knew during the trial about Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" or his South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement. Several months after the Ignasiak guilty verdicts, the government filed the Government's In Camera Notice to the Court ("Notice"). The Notice, and an accompanying affidavit, were filed under seal. This post-trial Notice revealed Dr. Jordan's conduct and his South Dakota pretrial diversion deal to Judge Lacey Collier and Robert Ignasiak's defense team for the first time. The government requested that the Notice be kept under seal, in order to protect Dr. Jordan's privacy interests.
In the Notice, the government also argued that its prior failure to disclose the Arthur Jordan impeachment material did not violate Brady/Giglio, because the Ignasiak prosecutor had not personally known about Dr. Jordan's conduct, or the South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement, during the Ignasiak trial.
Judge Collier summarily granted the government's request to seal the Notice, despite defense opposition. The defense filed a New Trial Motion based on the alleged Brady/Giglio violations. Much of that litigation was conducted under seal. A few documents are publicly available, but they are heavily redacted. The defense lost its New Trial Motion as well.
The 11th Circuit did not decide whether the government's failure to discover and disclose Dr. Jordan's conduct, before or during trial, violated Brady/Giglio. But it did order the government's Notice unsealed and, through its opinion, disclosed Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" and pretrial diversion deal to the bench and bar. This was an admirable public service.
The 11th Circuit was clearly displeased by DOJ's effort to shield Dr. Jordan. As the Court succinctly put it:
"Perhaps ironically, by arguing that there was no Brady violation in this case because the AUSA prosecuting Ignasiak was unaware of Dr. Jordan’s history, it is actually the government that most persuasively highlights the value in unsealing the Notice. Indeed, should the Notice remain sealed, the significant likelihood is that in the next CSA prosecution in which Dr. Jordan testifies as an expert, both the prosecuting AUSA and the defense counsel will again be unaware of the highly relevant impeachment evidence contained in the Notice. And in that case, as in this one, should the truth ever come to light, the government could again point to its own ignorance and claim immunity from Brady error. Stated this way, we would have expected the government to condemn, rather than condone, such a problematic outcome."
In light of the 11th Circuit's opinion, several questions present themselves.
1. Who Protected Jordan? In other words, why did he get what looks on its face like a very favorable pretrial diversion deal from the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office? Who approved the deal and who within DOJ was informed about it? How long did the diversionary period last? Was it unusually short and, if so, why?
2. Who Revealed or Failed to Reveal Jordan's Conduct and Pretrial Diversion Deal? The Ignasiak prosecution team, from the Northern District of Florida, purportedly did not know about Dr. Jordan's "criminal conduct" or his South Dakota pretrial diversion agreement until after trial. Why not? The South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office is part of the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney network, and Dr. Jordan is fairly well known as a government expert in pain clinic cases. It is difficult to imagine that South Dakota prosecutors were not aware of Dr. Jordan's ongoing role as a government expert. Assuming that they were aware, why didn't this raise any red flags, and who, if anyone, made the decision to quarantine this obvious Brady/Giglio material? If this is a cover-up, how high did it go? Was Jordan's pretrial diversion completed before Ignasiak's trial? Was it still in force when Jordan traveled, as he surely must have, to Pensacola for trial prep? Wouldn't Jordan need permission from pretrial services in order to travel to Pensacola, and wouldn't he have to tell pretrial service the purpose of his trip? Did the South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office know of the trip and its purpose? If so, why didn't it notify N.D. Florida?
3. Why Did N.D. Florida Try to Seal and Suppress Dr. Jordan's "Criminal Conduct" and Pretrial Diversion Deal? As the 11th Circuit correctly noted, the government's effort to seal its own Notice had the effect of shielding Dr. Jordan's misconduct from other federal prosecutorial offices. Even assuming, as the government argued in Ignasiak, that an AUSA in one federal district has no obligation to obtain Brady/Giglio from a fellow AUSA in another federal district, what possible justification is there for the active effort to suppress Brady/Giglio material that occurred post-trial in Ignasiak?
4. What Subsequent Prosecutions Have Been Sullied by the Ignasiak Brady/Giglio Suppression? Did the Florida AUSAs ask Dr. Jordan about any upcoming trials Jordan may have had on tap with other U.S. Attorney Offices? If so, did the N.D. Florida make an attempt to tell the other offices about Dr. Jordan? It unquestionably had an ethical duty to do so. What has been done since the Ignasiak opinion to look into this issue?
5. Does the DOJ Really Believe that Brady/Giglio Material Known Only to a Federal Prosecutor in South Dakota is not Brady/Giglio Material in any Other Federal District? What duty does DOJ impose upon its federal prosecutors to tell prosecutors in other federal districts about Brady/Giglio problems with testifying agents and expert witnesses? If there is no policy in this area, why not?
6. How Could This Happen? More to the point, how could this happen post-Stevens? The government filed its Notice in Ignasiak six months after DOJ moved to dismiss the Stevens Indictment with prejudice and six months after Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered his own investigation of Brady/Giglio violations. Apparently AG Holder's message fell on some deaf ears. And I guess the N.D. Florida never thought to re-examine its position, after the DOJ issued, to much fanfare, the Ogden Memo in early 2010. Even now, after the 11th Circuit's pointed comments, the government has not voluntarily moved to unseal the Notice, or the motions and responses from the New Trial Motion, in the Ignasiak case. Why not?
It is extremely difficult for me to believe that either AG Eric Holder or Assistant AG Lanny Breuer knew about the Arthur Jordan issue prior to last month's Ignasiak opinion. And therein lies the problem. Even an Attorney General and Criminal Division Chief publicly committed to rooting out Brady/Giglio abuses could not prevent the Arthur Jordan debacle.
What is the real lesson here? That prosecutors can't be trusted to make their own judgments about what is or is not exculpatory and material under Brady/Giglio. Disclosure must be the norm.
DOJ has done everything in its power to prevent meaningful statutory reform of Fed.R.Crim.App.16 and federal criminal discovery procedures. DOJ says that it can be trusted to prevent Brady/Giglio violations from occurring. The Ted Stevens prosecution is Exhibit 1 in the argument against DOJ. Now we have Exhibit 2. His name is Dr. Arthur Jordan.
February 16, 2012
WSJ On FCPA
The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in on FCPA prosecutions here this morning, bewailing DOJ's increasingly broad construction of the statute and calling for reform. The editorial hits the FCPA nail right on the head, noting Mother Justice's recent setbacks in three FCPA cases, but also noting that big companies settle FCPA cases for outrageously large sums instead of shouldering the risks and further financial burdens of protracted litigation against the DOJ and SEC.
Don't expect any of this to change without a statutory fix. DOJ has proven itself remarkably tone deaf, stubborn, and obtuse with respect to FCPA enforcement. Besides, FCPA investigations bring in the big bucks, concomitantly creating a specialty practice that is easily marketable to the private and in-house bar after government employment.
February 09, 2012
The Schuelke Report: Public On March 15, 2012
Here is Judge Emmet Sullivan's Memorandum Opinion ordering unredacted release of Hank Schuelke's Report on prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens prosecution. Any comments or objections to the report by the attorneys involved are due by March 8 and will be published along with the Report.
February 08, 2012
Prosecutorial Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor: Lance Armstrong; FCPA Gabon Sting
One of the supposed hallmarks of the American criminal justice system is the prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion. But prosecutorial discretion, even when it works, is a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because it allows for the flexibility and compromise without which most systems, even well-constructed ones, cannot function. A curse, because liberty should not depend upon the the character and wisdom of the person temporarily wielding power.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California has decided not to prosecute Lance Armstrong. An announcement to that effect was made last Friday. The L.A. Times story is here. A good Washington Post piece is here. Today's Wall Street Journal discusses the declination and a potential future probe of of improper leaks related to the case. (An internal investigation of some kind appears to be warranted given the massive leaking that has occurred.) According to the WSJ, the declination decision by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte and his top aides went against the recommendation of the two line AUSAs handling the case. Maybe, but take it with a grain of salt. News stories about the internal machinations of prosecution teams often get it wrong.
Based on what I know about the case, the decision to decline appears to have been a no-brainer. Recent federal prosecutions involving alleged drug use by star athletes have expended enormous sums of money with mixed or poor results. In the Armstrong matter, the doping, if it occurred, was not itself a federal crime. Prosecutors would have been peddling a wire fraud theory under which Armstrong allegedly defrauded team sponsors by intentionally violating a contractual obligation to avoid improper drug use. Not very sexy. Twelve typical American jurors might well wonder at the start of such a case, "Why are we even here?" Finally, Armstrong is enormously popular and has a sterling defense team with unlimited resources.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) vows to continue its investigation, accurately noting that its "job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws." But USADA wants the grand jury materials. This would be a travesty, and is unlikely to happen. Federal grand jury materials are presumptively secret by law for good reason. Don't count on a federal court sanctioning transfer of grand jury materials to an agency like USADA.
In other declination news, the DOJ attorneys prosecuting the Gabon sting case have informed U.S. District Judge Richard Leon that DOJ is considering dropping all future prosecutions. A decision will be made by February 21. The BLT piece is here. Full disclosure: I briefly represented one of the defendants, and considered representing another of the defendants, neither of whom has gone to trial. My comments here are based on the public record. The two cases brought to date have resulted in three acquittals and two hung juries. Nobody going to trial has been convicted in what DOJ thought was a sure win. Whatever merit there was in initially bringing the case, reconsideration is in order. The two trials to date have revealed a number of weaknesses. First, this was a sting--a crime engineered by the U.S. Government. Second, the informant who helped orchestrate it was far more compromised than the typical informant in a white collar case. Third, in a key tape recorded conversation between that informant and one of the defendants, the defendant seeks to back out of the alleged unlawful transaction, but the informant reels the defendant back in by telling him that attorneys have approved the deal. Fourth, the inherent ambiguities and weaknesses in the FCPA itself.
If there has been a benefit to the Gabon FCPA prosecution it is this--it has taught the white collar defense bar that FCPA cases can be fought and won and, presumably, has taught DOJ that FCPA cases aren't as easy to win as they first appear.
February 8, 2012 in Celebrities, Corruption, Current Affairs, FCPA, Fraud, Government Reports, Grand Jury, Investigations, Media, Prosecutions, Prosecutors, Sports, Statutes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
February 04, 2012
Mismarking CDO Case Not Earth-Shattering
Last week, after President Obama announced a purportedly new initiative, see here and here, to combat fraud, government law enforcement officials, criticized for their lack of activity, promised action in the very near future. It is not clear whether the indictment returned Wednesday in the Southern District of New York for crimes committed four years ago is the action referred to. It certainly is not an earth-shattering case.
On Wednesday, three former Credit Suisse traders were indicted for inflating the worth of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to avoid recognition of market losses and thereby increase their bonuses. See here.
The CDOs consisted of pooled, presumably at least in part subprime, mortgages that were sold to investors in packages by presumably reputable institutions with high ratings provided by presumably reputable credit agencies. The presence of large amounts of overvalued CDOs in firm inventories is considered by some a major cause of the financial crisis.
Unlike securities such as listed stocks, there was no liquid market for these mortgage securities and therefore no easily ascertainable market value. Some financial firms were hesitant to mark down these failing obligations because it would considerably decrease reported earnings. Here, it is alleged -- and two of the three indicted have pleaded guilty -- that the traders knowingly concealed the loss in value and secured a bogus evaluation from a friendly small investment bank in order to support the inflated value of the securities. The overvaluation -- or failure to recognize the loss -- resulted in increased compensation for the traders, whose year-end bonuses were based considerably on the profits of their groups.
This case is interesting for several reasons. It is one of the relatively few brought so far that concern alleged criminal wrongdoing after the financial crisis arose. Most previous criminal prosecutions involving failed mortgages have focused on the origination of mortgages and comparatively small-time people such as aggressive mortgage brokers, perjurious buyers and conniving lawyers, and not their securitization.
It is also one of the few instances in which employees of a major financial institution have been prosecuted criminally in a case related to the financial crisis. Nonetheless, it would be a stretch to say that this overvaluation, discovered and corrected by Credit Suisse in days, had a major impact.
This is one of the rare criminal accusations, to my knowledge, involving mismarking or deliberately overvaluing illiquid assets in order to inflate profits. These valuations have a major effect on the profit and loss statements of financial institutions, including hedge funds, and the consequent bonuses or incentive compensation of traders and managers. False marking, often using evaluations by supposed experts or comparable institutions of the worth of securities with no easily-defined market value, is an area which deserves more governmental scrutiny and probably more governmental legal action.
Of course, care must be taken to distinguish deliberate falsity from good faith but erroneous evaluation in this uncertain area.
January 29, 2012
Amicus Brief Filed in Brown Case - Discovery Issue
Previously discussed here, was the cert petition filled in James A. Brown v. United States (11-783),a case that raises interesting questions regarding Brady. As noted, Brown, is a former Merrill Lynch executive who "was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for his testimony before the Enron grand jury about a transaction between Merrill and Enron in late 1999." An amicus brief has been filed in this case that includes several different defense groups and several leading law professors. They weigh in on the important question raised in this brief - the appropriate standard of review for Brady cases. Should it be "clear error" or should it be de novo.
The case also examines "materiality," a term that has creates some confusion. What must a prosecutor provide to the defense counsel. And isn't it odd that the adversary in the process is making the determination for what the defense is entitled to receive. The case looks at summaries being provided to defense counsel. Bottom line - summaries are not the same as the real thing.
January 24, 2012
Financial Crimes Unit
President Obama's State of the Union Address spoke to many important issues. One was financial crime. He said "[w]e will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people's investments." (see full text Wash Po here). He later states, "[s]o pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count."
Some may recall that back in 2009 President Obama created the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that had as its purpose "to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial crisis as well as those who would attempt to take advantage of the efforts at economic recovery." (see here) I am a bit uncertain how this existing body will or will not interact with the new Financial Crimes Unit, but the concept of further enforcement in this area sounds impressive. Perhaps more funding will be supplied to the SEC through this initiative so that they can properly regulate improprieties and avoid Ponzi schemes of the past. Perhaps more FBI investigators will be hired to work on building these cases. I applaud the President for this one - especially if he goes in this direction.
On the other hand, we really do not need new legislation to make "the penalties of fraud count." The legislation is there, and if one looks at the website of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, there have been a significant amount of prosecutions with existing statutes. (see here). The statutes are there -it is the money that is needed to make these difficult and often complex cases. Please don't add more to the already approximately 4,500 federal statutes out there.
So more regulatory oversight, more prosecutors and SEC folks working on financial matters will help. But the legislation and penalties are already there. I look forward to seeing this Financial Crime Unit up and running and cracking down on improprieties in our financial world.
January 22, 2012
New Article - Indictment of Lawyers for their Legal Advice
Attorney Jack Fernandez (Zuckerman Spaeder LLP) has an interesting Essay for the the ABA's White Collar Book entitled, An Essay Concerning the Indictment of Lawyers for Their Legal Advice. It is here - Download 3533275_1 DOCX (3) (3)
January 19, 2012
Indicting Criminal Defense Counsel for Trial Misconduct
Mike Scarcella over at the BLT Blog has an interesting piece titled, D.C. Attorney, Charged In Scheme, Fights Prosecutors Over Evidence. But what sounds unusual here is that the attorney is charged based upon testimony from a client that he represented, who is now cooperating with the government and the charges stem from alleged misconduct during the trial.
Even if these allegations of trial misconduct prove to be true, one has to wonder why this wasn't handled via cross-examination or through objections to the admission of the evidence at trial. Is this a professional responsibility problem, a contempt problem, or should this be considered criminal? And did counsel do anything wrong?
When defense counsel is charged with a crime for trial misconduct, it needs to be scrutinized carefully as the process can have a chilling effect on the right to counsel. And it certainly needs to be looked at very closely when the case is premised on a former client's cooperation. So isn't this just the kind of case that all discovery should be turned over to the defense so that justice can occur?
January 15, 2012
Federal Organizational Plea Agreements Website
Professors Brandon Garrett and Jon Ashley have an incredible new website that is a library of 1495 federal corporate plea agreements in which an organization was convicted. They intend to update this collection of agreements. The site has the agreements by date, U.S. Attorney Office district and name. The site also provides links to other helpful data concerning corporate convictions. This is an amazing website that provides a wealth of information.
January 09, 2012
"Highly Complex Fraud Case" Has Judgment Vacated and Remanded
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded a white collar case (United States v. Collins) saying that "the trial court committed prejudicial error when it failed to disclose the contents of a jury note and engaged in an ex parte colloquy with a juror accused of attempting to barter his vote." The three "c"s - judges with last names starting with the letter "C"- Calabresi, Chin and Carney - issued this opinion in a 14-count case involving conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud. The foreman had sent a note to the court "asserting that one juror had attempted to barter his vote and was refusing to deliberate." "The court did not share the contents of the note with the parties or seek counsel's input before it conducted an ex parte interview with the accused juror." The Second Circuit held that the defendant was deprived "of his right to be present at every stage of the trial" and that this "deprivation was not harmless."
See also Chicago Tribune (AP), Winnetka lawyer wins new trial on NYC appeal
Mark Hamblett, NYLJ, Circuit Upsets Fraud Conviction of Ex-Mayer Brown Partner
(esp)(w/ a hat tip to Linda Friedman Ramirez)