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When President Clinton signed the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act on April 25, he affirmed a decade of lobbying by criminal defense lawyers and cooperation between disparate political groups and the U.S. Justice Department. With that battle over, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) is now focusing on another long-standing item on its agenda — federal grand jury reform. But the department’s initial reaction to the proposed reforms does not bode well for a similar cooperative effort. On May 18, the NACDL Commission to Reform the Federal Grand Jury, which includes 14 current and former prosecutors, called for major changes in the way prosecutors run grand juries. Meanwhile, Representative William D. Delahunt, D-Mass., said he plans to introduce legislation next month that would incorporate many of the reforms enumerated in the NACDL’s “Federal Grand Jury Bill of Rights.” Mark D. Agrast, Delahunt’s legislative counsel, said that his office is making a serious effort to line up bipartisan support for the bill, the Federal Grand Jury Reform Act. Delahunt cited a series of recent federal laws that apply state disciplinary rules to federal prosecutors and grant defendants in frivolous federal prosecutions the ability to seek attorney fees. Grand jury reform, he said, presents “a historic opportunity to cap these efforts by bringing due process to the one corner of the federal criminal justice system in which the normal rules of engagement do not apply.” His proposals include: � Granting targets the right to testify and to receive a transcript of their testimony. � Giving witnesses the right to be accompanied by counsel during questioning, and requiring reasonable notice of subpoenas and a Miranda warning before questioning. � Requiring prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence and prohibiting the presentation of evidence that would be inadmissible at trial. � Prohibiting calling witnesses who have already stated their intent to invoke their right against self-incrimination. � Permitting defendants or the court to move for the dismissal of indictments on the basis of insufficient evidence. WATERGATE-ERA PROPOSALS Many of the changes were first proposed by the American Bar Association in the aftermath of Watergate but have regularly failed in Congress. Delahunt contends that recent public scrutiny of the grand jury system brought on by messy independent counsel investigations has smoothed the way for his bill. “These reforms all fully allow the grand jury system to work effectively,” said New York lawyer Fred Hafetz, a former federal prosecutor and member of the NACDL commission. “We should not have any strong opposition.” But Justice officials are not so sanguine. After meeting with NACDL officials on May 18, Asst. Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Robert Raben said it is “fairly clear that we are going to have significant concerns and objections to some of the major changes” that Delahunt is proposing. Allowing defense counsel in the grand jury room is one, he said. Other federal prosecutors say that the proposals would hamper the grand jury’s effectiveness as an investigative tool. “This is just an attempt by the defense bar to gain greater ability to interfere with the grand jury process,” said Richard L. Delonis, a senior federal prosecutor in Detroit and president of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys. He said that to allow defense lawyers to be present in the grand jury room and witnesses access to transcripts would be a “catastrophic blow” to grand jury secrecy. Restricting evidence to only that which would be admissible at trial would “prevent the grand jury from getting the full picture,” he said, adding that alerting people that they are targets by granting them an opportunity to testify would be damaging. “I can envision people moving their assets out of town or planning their getaway,” he said. One assistant U.S. attorney who requested anonymity said that the availability of transcripts could endanger grand jury witnesses, as grand jury targets could demand to see what their associates told the grand jury. “If the [target] wants to go in there and testify, I don’t have a problem,” another experienced prosecutor said. “But to impose affirmative duties on us to provide information … [that] will create a lot of motion practice.”

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