Private law firm representing company pursuing civil suit against defendant while criminal charges are pending is not part of the prosecution team for purposes of Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, absent evidence of an agency-type relationship. IAR filed civil charges against its CEO, Shehayed, after uncovering evidence he embezzled funds. Thereafter, the district attorney filed criminal charges. During discovery, Shehayed requested an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Valla (the law firm representing crime victim IAR) had to comply with Brady, notwithstanding its attorney-client privilege. After the hearing, the court found Valla was part of the prosecution team since it had exchanged emails concerning strategy with the district attorney, and ordered Valla to produce any Brady material in its possession. Valla filed a petition for writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted. Under Brady, prosecutors have a duty to disclose to the defense any material exculpatory evidence in its actual or constructive possession or in the possession of any member of the prosecution team. Because this duty belongs “solely and exclusively” to the prosecution, the trial court erred in ordering Valla to comply with Brady. Furthermore, the prosecution was not obligated to search for and disclose Brady materials in Valla’s possession or control, absent an agency-type relationship between the prosecution and Valla. While Valla and the district attorney exchanged emails concerning applicable legal authorities and discussed whether Valla should hire a forensic accountant to analyze the extent of Shehayed’s embezzlement and testify against him at the criminal trial, these exchanges did not show the prosecution had the requisite degree of control over Valla such that Valla should be deemed part of the prosecution team for Brady purposes. Thus, the trial court’s order must be vacated.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A149087.PDF