This past month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the convictions of six brokers and traders who were charged and later convicted in an insider trading scheme in which day traders were allowed to eavesdrop on confidential communications via broker “squawk boxes.” A primary basis for the appeal court’s ruling was the failure of federal prosecutors to produce as “Brady” material transcripts of depositions taken by an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission in a related matter. * Portions of these withheld transcripts contradicted the testimony of key government witnesses at trial, hence triggering the reversal.
We all read Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) in law school. At least, it was assigned. It remains a pillar of federal procedure; a transformative Warren Court opinion and a reminder of an era in which the expansion and definition of the rights of criminal defendants seemingly was the order of the day.
For those readers who either do not have a law degree or did not follow their 1L syllabus, Brady concerns the obligation of the prosecution to disclose material exculpatory information to the defense in advance of a criminal trial.