Federal Prosecutors Who Spied on Defense Should Be Held Accountable

The Wall Street Journal reported that defense lawyers in Florida filed a lawsuit complaining that federal prosecutors have been spying on defense legal strategies for as long as a decade by obtaining copies of the defense discovery documents. The Florida lawyers allege that the document service that provided them with copies of government documents they requested for their litigation then also provided government investigators with copies of the documents of interest to the defense – thus revealing some of the defense strategy before trial.

The government’s receipt of defense counsel work product on the sneak, raises serious legal and ethical issues, said Houston defense lawyer Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor himself. Reading the defense playbook is cheating, said Hilder, founder of Hilder & Associates, P.C. It is worrisome that the government doesn’t even recognize or chooses to ignore the long-standing work-product privilege. The government needs to be held accountable as this is a slippery slope.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the “allegations surfaced days ago on the eve of a scheduled trial, which is now delayed. In court papers filed May 26, lawyers alleged that prosecutors had secretly gained access to discovery document files assembled by the defense team. The lawyers wrote that an assistant U.S. attorney informed them in April that an FBI agent had received CDs containing duplicates of discovery files the defense had assembled and scanned from the more than 200 boxes of seized government evidence made available to them. The newspaper reported that the U.S. attorney’s office said the concerns were overblown and there was no evidence this practice was widespread.

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