April 21, 2024


Equality opinion

Shoutout to the AUSAs in D.C.

by Jamison Koehler on November 29, 2022
D.C. Flag

At a continuing legal instruction class (CLE) several decades back, we ended up presented with the pursuing moral dilemma:  The prosecutor arrives across a piece of paper that exculpates the defendant in a pending situation.  The prosecutor puts the piece of paper into a huge box and then delivers that and 100 other containers to the defendant’s lawyer.

Has the prosecutor complied with his/her obligation to switch around exculpatory proof under Brady v. Maryland?  

Individuals at this CLE incorporated three younger fellas in low-priced fits and terrible haircuts who had released them selves as county prosecutors in Virginia.  All a few were being adamant that the prosecutor’s obligations had been achieved:  The exculpatory evidence experienced in point been turned over to the defense.  The governing administration was less than no obligation to enable the defense kind by the containers to uncover it. 

Before I or any of the other defense lawyers in the area experienced a chance to object, an Assistant U.S. Lawyer (AUSA) from D.C. weighed in from the again of the room with his disagreement.  Such a literal interpretation of the prosecutor’s obligation, he pointed out, may perhaps have been constant with the letter of Brady and the prosecutor’s other discovery obligations.  But it was undoubtedly inconsistent with the spirit.

A prison proceeding, he claimed, is not a competitors, and the prosecutor’s purpose is not to gain at any price.  Unlike the defense attorney’s position, which is to obtain the most effective feasible consequence for his/her shopper, the prosecutor’s part is to attain the just consequence. 

No just one gains if an overworked felony defense lawyer misses a essential piece of exculpatory proof. 

My brother-in-legislation, a previous AUSA in D.C., recounts how he and his colleagues used to step in to support a prison protection attorney who appeared to be battling.  It was not only that they wanted to stop a conviction from getting overturned on enchantment due to the fact of ineffectiveness of counsel.  They did.  It was also that they did not want to unintentionally convict an innocent man or woman. 


The exchange of views explained previously mentioned signifies to me the variance concerning the county prosecutors I utilised to deal with in Philadelphia and Virginia and the federal prosecutors I now function with in D.C.  

In Philadelphia, I keep in mind standing subsequent to my counterpart in the prosecutor’s place of work and on the lookout at the open up file in front of her to obtain that she was misrepresenting the specifics to the courtroom.  This was a girl who experienced sat future to me in contracts class throughout our very first semester in regulation university. 

The function of her deliberate misrepresentations was to safe a different couple of days of detention for my shopper. This was the get-at-all value mentality that was fostered by Lynn Abraham, the former District Legal professional in Philadelphia.  

As for Virginia, I bear in mind getting lined up hat in hand with other defense attorneys so that we could plead our situation for diversion just before an more mature prosecutor who taken care of us with a blend of boredom and disdain.  It was really hard to blame him for becoming so sour.  I would be cranky way too if I were even now undertaking community intoxication instances following 20 decades.  


Given this expertise, it was a welcome shock to get started working with federal prosecutors in D.C.  Handling the two federal and D.C. instances in the District, these are not county prosecutors.  

Looking at how tricky it is to get a job as a federal prosecutor, AUSAs are frequently smarter and from superior law universities.  Unlike the county prosecutors who are typically new out of legislation faculty, AUSAs are inclined to be older legal professionals who have labored in other places prior to starting to be prosecutors.  This delivers maturity and perspective.  Rotating from one particular division in the U.S. Attorney’s Place of work to the next, they are gaining knowledge and accomplishing significant perform, not searching for to make their occupations on the backs of men and women billed with minimal misdemeanors.   

As for their interest in accomplishing the right end result, not wins, I assume of the two AUSAs who had been the 1st to congratulate my customer following the courtroom granted my motion for judgment of acquittal.  

I imagine of the numerous AUSAs I have labored with more than the past 10 or so several years who – nearly with no exception – have been intelligent, considerate, forthright and enjoyable who look to specific authentic problem for defendants and who look to be most intrigued not in profitable but in arriving at the ideal consequence.  

Each individual of you has a different purpose in the program.  But you are ethical and calculated and you play by the policies and there is no rationale to be fewer than civil even though you are going about it.