Phoenix: “Deputy swipes document from defense counsel”

Making the rounds of the legal and libertarian blogs: Legal Ethics Forum, Scott Greenfield, Coyote, Orin Kerr/Volokh, from original reporting by Nick R. Martin/Heat City. Radley Balko at Reason:

I don’t know Arizona law, so perhaps a Hit & Run reader with some experience there can help out. Could it possibly be legal for a law enforcement official to meander up to the defense table, begin reading the defense team’s files, then take documents from said files without notifying the attorney? That sounds absurd on its face, even for Maricopa County.


  • That judge was amazingly incompetent. It is not a matter of law, but a matter of discipline and decorum in a court room, her court room. To allow such a blatant seizure of the defendant’s lawyer’s work product, to have it clearly read by the bailiffs, secreted out of the court room where it was certainly shown to others or copied. There is no excuse for that. If the bailiff had a concern regarding the lawyer’s papers, the correct procedure was to discuss it with the judge in the presence of all in the court. To leave the court with the documents permanently raises doubts about the propriety of his actions.
    If this judge is to maintain the appearance that she is the Judge and final authority in her court, then her only option then was to act firmly but having the bailiff immediately taken into custody or conducting the necessary hearing on the spot.

  • Speechless

  • This is a travesty of our Constitution, and I am ashamed that law enforcement took such illegal acts to obtain evidence. The Judge is completely incompetent, and she should be removed due to her incompetence and not acting on an illegal act in her courtroom. Does she not interpret the law? However, this is an undertow to a much larger issue – destruction of personal rights and freedoms in America. We are no longer protected, and our government and law enforcement agencies see our constitutional and human rights as barriers to their jobs. In addition, some people in our country have used fear to allow the government and to sway individuals to forego basic human and constitutional rights.