Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Copy That

Ron in Houston asked me this morning (as he did Mark Bennett) my opinion of Lisa Falkenberg's article today about Kelly Siegler and her idea about the copying program. That's a two part question. Mark Bennett made fun of me a couple of weeks ago for using "faint praise", so I guess my thoughts on Falkenberg's article is something akin to that.

At this point, I guess that I'm just surprised that the Chronicle isn't posting a daily column entitled "Guess What Those Sh*theads Did Now!" about the D.A.'s office. So, in the big scheme of things, I think its okay.

The idea that Kelly has come up with about allowing Defense Attorneys to copy offense reports is actually one that is extremely signfigant, even if it has been a long time coming. The amount of time that it will save for both the defense and the prosecution is potentially limitless. Diligent and hard-working members of the defense bar will no longer have to spend hours on end at the D.A.'s office taking notes. Trials won't be delayed as while the defense has to quickly review a copy of the report. Cases will even get to trial faster because such a major portion of the prep work will now be taken care of, literally, at the push of a button.

And for the record, I never really got the whole prohibition against taking down things "word for word", but I've been admonished about not doing that, myself, so I know it's true. That's just silly.

So, my position on the policy? I think it's fantastic.

I think there will need to be some kinks to be ironed out if the policy is put in place, and the Dick DeGuerin quotes illustrates one of those points.

Technically, the offense report is work product, under the Rules. The State isn't required to allow the defense to see it. Where Dick got his nose out-of-joint about this issue was over the Temple trial. Dick and Kelly go together like oil and water. He grieved her. She was upset. She didn't trust him. She closed the file to him.

So my first question that would need to be ironed out is: Will it remain within the prosecutor's discretion if he wants to close a file to a defense attorney (even if that includes not allowing the copying)?

My second question would be: Who is responsible for making sure the defense attorney is up-to-date on having the latest supplements? Right now, all of the courts are running well over 700 cases. If prosecutors are responsible for keeping tabs on the latest supplements and then notifying the defense attorney that they need to get a copy of the latest supplement, the situation will quickly become unmanageable.

I think the answers to these questions are all solved with some thinking, and should in no way diminish the Great Idea that it is. I do think there are going to be some details to iron out.

Any other issues you guys can think of that might pop up, and ways to solve them? I'm sure I'm missing plenty.

7 comments:

jigmeister said...

AHCL:

As a general proposition, you are right. It would just be a matter of making sure that all agencies computerized OR's and syncronize it with HCDA. Discover was the worst part of the job. Give defense attorneys of record limited signon privileges to HCDA system. Think about how much time in and out of court that would save. It would also cut off a significant number of claims on appeal.

The ADA should have some access control in the case where their is a danger to witnesses, at least as to contact info.

Maybe then little D would stop asking for examining trials, but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

defense attorneys have access to JIMS. they have to swear to follows the rules and regulations of the service.

each lawyer could register for an account, get a password, and have access to the offense reports online.

The JIMS system to defense lawyers is limited, thus defense lawyers are not allowing access to certain areas (example: DIMS summary).

the same limited access could be granted giving the defense attorney access to the offense report via password.

DA-esque said...

I'm worried about witnesses names/confidential information accidently being released.

I know we say that we can monitor that - but "the best laid plans" as they say.

Victim's confidential contact information is often included in offense reports. I know we will say that we can monitor that - we'll have plans to - and defense attorneys will say they won't give out the info to the defendants.

And yet - in the day-to-day routine - we know it will happen.

Just something to think about.

Mark Bennett said...

You're so much more responsive to readers' questions than I am!

Ron in Houston said...

AHCL

Thanks for answering my question.

You also gave me a pretty good laugh.

"I guess that I'm just surprised that the Chronicle isn't posting a daily column entitled "Guess What Those Sh*theads Did Now!" about the D.A.'s office."

Be careful. Don't give them any ideas.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

No problem Ron,
I appreciate your frequent posts for helping keep this website going.

Mark,
I really thought you would be more responsive, given as sensitive as your are.

Mark Bennett said...

Well, this sensitive guy was in trial. I wrote about it tonight, though.