The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROYCE C. LAMBERTH
EDITOR'S NOTE: THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT CONTAINED TEXT REDACTED BY THE COURT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND PRETRIAL ORDER #5
On November 12, 1991, the court ordered the Independent Counsel to produce all of the documents obtained by the defendants and the pleadings in the cases United States v. North, Crim. No. 88-0080 (D.D.C.) and United States v. Fernandez, Crim. No. 89-00150-A (E.D.Va.). See Pretrial Order #3. In that same order, the court required the parties to submit suggestions concerning how the court could most efficiently handle defendant's outstanding discovery requests. After considering the recommendations of counsel -- who indicated that a period of negotiation might be fruitful, the court on November 20, 1991, ordered the parties to attempt to reach agreement concerning discovery with the provision that the defendant should file a motion to compel regarding any documents still in dispute.
The requests derive from letters written by defendant's counsel to the Independent Counsel on September 23, 1991, and October 22, 1991, which delineate 17 categories of documents sought by defendant. After several months of negotiation, the IC and the defendant have agreed to very little. Defendant seeks production of all of the documents in the remaining categories that he requested in the original letters.
II. Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
Rule 16(a)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure reads:
Upon request of the defendant the government shall permit the defendant to inspect and copy or photograph books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings, or places, or copies or portions thereof, which are within the possession, custody or control of the government, and which are material to the preparation of the defendant's defense or are intended for use by the government as evidence in chief at the trial, or were obtained from or belong to the defendant.
Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(C)
The key issue is whether the documents or other material sought to be produced are "material" to the defense. As the court has previously discussed in its November 12, 1991 memorandum opinion; the materiality requirement is not a heavy burden, but nonetheless the defendant must demonstrate that "pretrial disclosure of the disputed evidence would [enable] the defendant significantly to alter the quantum of proof in his favor. " United States v. Ross, 511 F.2d 757, 763 (5th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 836. The documents at issue must "play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony or assisting impeachment or rebuttal." United States v. Felt, 491 F.Supp. 179, 186 (D.D.C. 1979). When analyzing materiality, a court should focus first on the indictment which sets out the issues to which the defendant's theory of the case must respond. See United States v. Poindexter, 727 F.Supp. 1470, 1473 (D.D.C. 1989), rev'd on other grounds, 951 F.2d 369 (D.C.Cir. 1991). An "abstract logical relationship to the issues in the case" is not, however, sufficient to force the production of discovery under Rule 16. Ross 511 F.2d at 762. Materiality is, to some degree, a sliding scale; when the requested documents are only tangentially relevant, the court may consider other factors, such as the burden on the government that production would entail or the national security interests at stake, in deciding the issue of materiality. See id. at 763; Poindexter, 727 F.Supp. 1473. It may also be relevant that the defendant can obtain the desired information from other sources. See Ross, 511 F.2d at 763.
Defendant's overriding justification for the production of these documents is that they will help him to present his "universe" as DDO. Yet he cannot possibly require all of these documents to create this universe, and, indeed, it is simply not true that these documents, if presented to a jury, would establish the context in which the defendant operated. The reports, cables, personnel files, etc., created by other people and about other people which were sent through his office tell only very little about the job of the DDO. If defendant seeks to make a limited point concerning the day-to-day tasks of the DDO, including the sort of information which passed over his desk or even the volume of that information, then he may do so, but he certainly does not require documents containing the most highly classified information in the United States to do so. Further, defense counsel has made no attempt to hone his requests or limit them to fewer documents that could serve as examples for the points which he wishes to make.
In his reply and his oral argument, defense counsel cites repeatedly to United States v. Fernandez, 89-819 (4th Cir. June 5, 1990), for the proposition that he must be able to discover documents concerning the context in which he worked. In Fernandez, the court said:
The nature of the charges against him demand that he be able to place his job before the jury in a concrete, palpable context, and that he be able to explain his understanding of the world in which he worked. Only against such a background could the jury ...