Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Am I missing something?

Back at the beginning of March, the Harris County District Attorney's Office introduced a new policy regarding the release of offense reports to defense attorneys.

Today, as I waited in line to pick up a redacted copy of an offense report for a domestic assault case, I chatted with a colleague about the new policy and we both had a question to which no one has yet been able to provide a satisfactory, or for that matter, logical answer.

What is the purpose in redacting information from the offense reports?

In order to obtain a redacted offense report we are required to sign a confidentiality agreement in which we agree not to give a copy of the report to our client. However, we are permitted to review the unredacted copy of the offense report in the state's file and take notes. As these notes are attorney work product we can share them freely with our clients -- including the names and contact information for all witnesses.

Since we sign a confidentiality agreement, why redact any information from the reports? If the reports are going to be redacted, why require the attorney to sign a confidentiality agreement? Since we can take notes from the unredacted offense report and discuss that information with our clients, why bother with either requiring a confidentiality agreement or redacting the reports?

If anyone can figure out the logic in this policy, please leave your comments below.

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