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S.F. ‘PITCHESS’ REVIEW ENDS IN A WHIMPER A special master has concluded that few criminal defendants in San Francisco Superior Court missed a chance to impeach a police witness when the police department failed to give certain personnel records to judges. After the police department acknowledged in 2003 that it had routinely left out certain files when responding to so-called Pitchess motions, some defense attorneys suggested hundreds of cases might have been tainted. But the court’s planned investigation of 1,920 closed cases was terminated after less than 10 percent had been examined. The first 159 cases reviewed turned up few holes and were representative of the entire group of motions, all filed from January 1997 through December 2002, Special Master Joshua Weinstein reported in a Dec. 30 letter to then-Presiding Judge Donna Hitchens. Weinstein only turned up new potentially discoverable items for six of 207 officers, and only four were relevant, he wrote. Public Defender Jeff Adachi acknowledged last week that the problems weren’t as widespread as he had originally anticipated, and said he was relieved. The review was initiated nearly two years ago when two lawyers in the police department raised questions about the adequacy of records provided for Pitchess motions. Amid concerns voiced by Adachi and some private defense attorneys, Hitchens convened a committee, launched the review and assigned all new Pitchess motions to one commissioner for consistency. Adachi and Linda Klee, the district attorney’s chief of administration, both sat on the committee and said they consider the matter closed in light of Weinstein’s findings. They said funneling the motions through one commissioner was an improvement. The city funded the review, for which Weinstein and a law clerk have been paid a combined $27,000 so far, said court Chief Executive Officer Gordon Park-Li. — Pam Smith HIGH COURT SIDESTEPS GUANTANAMO CASE WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to speed up the handling of a case brought by a Guantanamo Bay detainee challenging the military commissions the Defense Department plans to use to try accused foreign terrorists. Lawyers for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni citizen who allegedly once was a driver for Osama bin Laden, asked the high court to take up Hamdan’s case before the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rules on it. The appeals court has scheduled a March 8 hearing on his case. If Hamdan loses, he can appeal again to the Supreme Court, but now a final ruling is unlikely before the end of this year. Georgetown University Law Center professor Neal Katyal, who leads the legal team representing Hamdan, asked the high court for the rarely granted “ certiorari before judgment” in light of the fact that Hamdan has been detained at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo “for three years without process.” — Legal Times

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