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Memos to United States Attorneys: Establishing Guidance for Prosecutors Regarding Criminal Discovery

Last year, the Department of Justice convened a working group to explore the Department’s policies, practices, and training related to criminal case management and discovery. The group is made up of senior prosecutors from throughout the Department and from United States’ Attorney Offices, law enforcement representatives, and information technology professionals. Today, in response to recommendations from this group, the Deputy Attorney General issued three memoranda regarding criminal discovery practices including a memorandum to all prosecutors containing guidance regarding criminal discovery that prosecutors should follow to help assure that they meet discovery obligations in future cases.  Attorney General Eric Holder noted the positive effect of these new guidelines, saying:
"The Department of Justice's responsibility is not just to win cases, but to do justice. Along with the increased training for prosecutors we have already instituted, these new guidelines will ensure that we strive to meet that standard every day and in every case."
The procedure for ensuring a consistent process for discovery, in keeping with the Department of Justice’s responsibility of making sure the cause of justice is always served, is further detailed by the guidance memo, which also notes:
There are times when providing discovery broader than that required even by current Department policy serves the interests of justice.  Providing broad and early discovery often promotes the truth-seeking mission of the Department and fosters a speedy resolution of a case.  On the other hand, there are times when countervailing considerations counsel against broad and early disclosure.  For these reasons, the discovery guidance is intended to assure that prosecutors make considered decisions about whether to disclose information beyond the requirements of law and policy and when to disclose it.  
In addition, the Deputy Attorney General issued a memo to United States Attorneys and Heads of Litigating Components Handling Criminal matters directing each office to establish by March 31, 2010, a discovery policy with which prosecutors in that office must comply unless "specific, case-related considerations . . . warrant a departure from the uniform discovery practices of the office. ”  Read the full memos:
Updated April 7, 2017