As part of its initiative to address concerns about prosecutorial misconduct, the Justice Department today announced that an assistant chief in the Environment and Natural Resources Division will be its new national coordinator for its criminal discovery programs.
Andrew Goldsmith, First Assistant Chief of the ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section, will direct the department’s efforts to educate prosecutors about their obligations to turn over potentially exculpatory or other information to defendants. His appointment comes a week after the department released new guidelines for federal prosecutors in applying discovery rules, part of an effort by the DOJ to head off judicial rules changes pushed by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan that would restrict prosecutors’ discretion to decide what information in their possession is relevant to a defense team under Brady.
“Andrew brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in this field, and I am pleased he is taking on this crucial role,” Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said in a news release. “He will be instrumental in overseeing our efforts to ensure all of our prosecutors and law enforcement agents have the necessary training and tools to achieve fair and just results in the nation’s courts.”
Goldsmith’s job description includes, according to the news release:
- Creating an online directory of resources on discovery issues available to all prosecutors at their desktop
- Producing a handbook on discovery and case management similar to the Grand Jury Manual so that prosecutors will have an accessible and comprehensive resource on discovery obligations
- Implementing a training curriculum and a mandatory training program for paralegals and law enforcement agents
- Revitalizing the Computer Forensics Working Group to ensure the proper cataloguing of electronically stored information recovered as part of federal investigations
- Creating a pilot case management project to fully explore the available case management software and possible new practices to better catalogue law enforcement investigative files and to ensure that all the information is transmitted in the most useful way to federal prosecutors.
Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said in a report to Congress last year that restoring confidence in the department is a major challenge after the high-profile public corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) case was thrown out because of prosecutor mistakes.
Attorney General Eric Holder moved to dismiss the charges against Stevens in April, after an internal DOJ review revealed prosecutors had failed to give the defense material favorable to Stevens’ defense. A court-appointed counsel is investigating whether they did so intentionally. Fine said in the report that the Stevens fiasco “created concern about the prosecutors’ adherence to professional standards of conduct.”
On Dec. 31, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina rebuked prosecutors in the District of Columbia for their handling of a manslaughter case against five former Blackwater Worldwide guards accused in a shooting incident in Iraq that left 17 people dead.
In ordering dismissal of the indictment, Urbina said prosecutors had violated the defendants’ constitutional rights by making use of compelled statements the guards had given about the incident under threat of losing their jobs.