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March 01, 2016

Disclosure Rules

The ABA expressed support March 15 for a proposed disclosure rule for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that aligns with ABA policy adopted in 2011 regarding government disclosure of exculpatory information in criminal cases. The proposed disclosure rule would require the prosecution to timely disclose to the defense before the commencement of trial all information known to the prosecution that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the offense charges or sentence, or impeach the prosecution’s witnesses or evidence, except when relieved of this responsibility by a protective order. The proposed rule also would require the court to set specific timelines for disclosure of any information mentioned in the rule. The Supreme Court ruled in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), that prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose evidence favorable to an accused, but there is no uniform practice as to the timing or scope of disclosures of such evidence. This absence of a uniform rule has led to confusing and differing disclosure practices around the country. “A clearly defined and codified disclosure standard would help eliminate the pitfalls of the current system, where there is a multiplicity of disparate interpretations of the Brady obligation by both state and federal prosecutors,” the report accompanying the ABA policy states. The court’s Advisory Committee on Local Rules is accepting comments on the proposed disclosure rule through March 30 from organized bar associations, members of the bar, and the public.

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