On behalf of NACDL, we write to address the need to amend Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow the parties to issue subpoenas for documents and tangible items to third parties without leave of Court. … The current Rule 17 is ambiguous in critical respects, leading to disparate application that threatens the ability of defense counsel to adequately investigate, develop, and present available defenses, and thus to provide the level of assistance required by the Constitution.
- Champion Article
Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides the only means for a criminal defendant to obtain materials from third parties. Despite its broad language, the courts’ application of Rule 17 over the years has seriously limited its usefulness. Marci LaBranche and Carey Bell discuss problems with how the rule has been applied, the current state of Rule 17(c) practice, and how to make a record that encourages change.