Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Gibbons defends challenge to criminal defense rule; Says witnesses exposed to intimidation


By Record News | Mar 13, 2019

BENTON – Granting criminal defendants custody of their case files would expose witnesses to intimidation, Madison County counsel Joseph Devereux asserted in U.S. district court on Feb. 27. 

He countered Wood River lawyer Tom Maag’s constitutional challenge to an Illinois Supreme Court rule requiring defense counsel to keep exclusive custody of files. Devereux argues that the rule promotes the administration of justice, prevents public dissemination of pretrial discovery, and prevents witness intimidation. 

Maag’s law firm challenged Supreme Court Rule 415 in January by suing Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons over enforcement of the rule.   

Many of his firm’s clients wished to review discovery at home, Maag argues in the suit, but the rule prohibits the person most interested in discovery from reviewing it without the time and expense of being in an attorney’s office. 

He wrote that the rule violates the First, Fourth, Sixth, and 14th amendments. 

Gibbons removed the suit to district court on Feb. 20. 

Devereux’s answer began with a challenge to the standing of Maag’s firm. 

He wrote that the firm has not suffered any actual or threatened injury.

“Defendant states plaintiff lacks standing to assert constitutional violations on behalf of another,” Devereux wrote. “Defendant states plaintiff’s claim is barred in that plaintiff is not the real party in interest.” 

The rule doesn’t violate the First Amendment, “because it does not prevent or prohibit open and free communication between plaintiff and its clients or impinge on the attorney client privilege,” Devereux wrote. 

He also wrote that the rule doesn’t prejudice the firm’s right to effectively represent clients because the firm possesses the material, and that Gibbons acted in good faith and without malice.

Devereux practices at Sandberg Phoenix in St. Louis. 

District Judge Staci Yandle presides.

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Illinois Supreme Court Maag Law Firm, LLC Madison County

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