Discovery Reform

Many recent cases have exposed the fact that federal Gavelprosecutors, whether through negligence or by design, all too often fail to abide by their constitutional duty to disclose favorable information to the defense. This is exacerbated by grossly inadequate state discovery statutes. NACDL has undertaken a number of research and advocacy projects to support reform in this area.  NACDL is likewise supporting the efforts of its state affiliates -- through advocacy, resources, and model legislation -- to enact fairer discovery rules and legislation.

In 2014, NACDL’s Board of Directors has approved a model open-file discovery law to promote nationwide discovery reform and improve the fairness of criminal justice systems by ensuring that the defense receives, promptly after arraignment and before entry of any guilty plea, all information generated during the law enforcement and prosecutorial investigation of a charged offense. Developed by NACDL’s Discovery Reform Task Force, the model law is the product of extensive research, discussion, and revision, and is drawn from best-practice provisions around the country.

In 2012, NACDL’s Board of Directors approved model legislation, developed by NACDL’s Discovery Reform Task Force, that would require disclosure of all evidence favorable to the accused, regardless of any assessment of whether the evidence was material.  This approach is embodied in the Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act, federal legislation introduced in 2012 by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), with bipartisan co-sponsorship and support from broad coalition ranging from the ACLU to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book

NACDL is seeking disclosure of the Justice Department’s Federal Criminal Discovery Blue Book.  This publication reportedly covers the law, policy, and practice of prosecutors’ disclosure obligations.  The U.S. District Court for DC upheld DOJ’s denial of our FOIA request, and the matter is currently pending in the US Court of Appeals for DC.  See the pleadings.

Recently Released Report

Material Indifference CoverOn November 17, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, NACDL officially released its latest report, Material Indifference: How Courts Are Impeding Fair Disclosure in Criminal Cases, a major study produced jointly with the VERITAS Initiative at Santa Clara Law School. Complete copies of the report, executive summary, and fact sheet are available at www.nacdl.org/discoveryreform/materialindifference. C-SPAN3's video coverage of the launch event is available here.

News Of Interest

"D.C. Judges Weigh Rule to Curb Prosecutor Misconduct," by Zoe Tillman, National Law Journal, February 3, 2016.

"D.C. Circuit Questions Secrecy of DOJ Prosecution Manual," by Michael A. Scarcella, National Law Journal, January 15, 2016.

"Defense Attys Press DC Circ. For Access To DOJ 'Blue Book'," by Jimmy Hoover, Law360, January 14, 2016.

"Virginia’s Supreme Court brushes off recommendations for reforms," by Editorial Board, Washington Post, December 15, 2015.

"Prosecutor in retrial of man charged in Levy murder acknowledges ‘mistake’," by Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, November 20, 2015.

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