"Defenders for Discovery Reform" -- Lobby Day Recap
On January 12, 2018, justice advocates from around the Commonwealth joined Justice Forward Virginia and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for our first Lobby Day of this year’s session. We were beyond thrilled that so many “Defenders for Discovery Reform” -- over 30 volunteers in total -- joined us at the Virginia General Assembly to move justice forward. Thanks to their passion and support, we spoke with almost every single delegate or his/her legislative aide about the urgent need for reform of Virginia’s criminal discovery rules -- rules that fail to provide defendants even the most minimal due process protections, such as the right to see the police reports from their own cases, read the statements of their accusers, or learn who will testify against them at trial.
As surprised as many are to learn that a Virginia defendant has no right to the police reports or witness statements from his own case -- often so incredulous as to ask, “are you sure about that?” -- it’s even more surprising how few Virginia legislators are aware of this inconceivable state of affairs. Roughly half of the delegates with whom we spoke, including licensed attorneys, simply had no idea how Virginia’s criminal courts operate, or that Virginia and Alabama are the only states that so thoroughly deny defendants these critical due process protections.
Read more about discovery reform here: Criminal Discovery - The Current Situation in Virginia (NACDL).
We hope that this is just the beginning. As the session progresses, we will need to remain vigilant in speaking truth and changing minds. In particular, we will need to continue meeting with our elected representatives, to address ill-founded objections to discovery reform that members are certain to hear in the next several weeks.
Thanks to Monica Reid, Doug Ramseur, Bonnie Hoffman, Danielle Payne, and a crew of amazing outreach volunteers (James Abrenio, Dan Goldman, Shawn Stout, Lauren LeBourgeois, et al). It is so encouraging to see defenders and allies come together like this. Let's keep it up!