United States v. Stillwell, et al. (2d Cir. January 2021)

The Federal Docket

March 5, 2021

Prosecutorial Misconduct/Brady – The need to keep certain information classified, including under a protective order, does not allow the Government to evade its obligations under Brady v. Maryland.

The Second Circuit considered whether the Government had violated its obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence under Brady v. Maryland when defendants discovered new evidence while their cases were already on appeal. The evidence included motions and documents relating to a sealed protective order that the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the DOJ, not the US attorney, had obtained via filing an ex parte motion with the judge.

Upon learning of the ex parte order, the Second Circuit required the NDDS to show cause and ultimately vacated the protective order and ordered the disclosure of the documents to the USAO and the defense. The defense then raised additional challenges to their appeal under Brady.

In its opinion, the Second Circuit ultimately did not address whether the Government had violated Brady, explaining that the issue had not yet been presented to the district court. The Government remanded and suggested the defendants file post-conviction motions before the deadline under Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

In doing so, the Court indicated that the need to classify confidential or sensitive information cannot be used to evade the obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence under Brady.

Appeal from the Southern District of New York
Opinion by Cabranes, joined by Raggi and Korman (by designation from EDNY)

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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