WASHINGTON — An unusual government search of Marine Corps defense attorneys’ offices at California’s Camp Pendleton could cast a cloud over dozens of criminal cases.
The search May 2, which lasted about two and a half hours, included investigators opening more than 100 case files compiled by defense attorneys, Marine Corps officers say. The search went beyond what was necessary and exceeded applicable legal standards, officers think.
“It’s unacceptable,” Lt. Col. Clay Plummer, the Marine Corps’ regional defense counsel for the West Coast, said in an interview. “We’re going to litigate this, to make sure this never happens again.”
The courtroom fallout might take time to settle, as defense attorneys with Camp Pendleton’s Legal Service Support Team Echo consider challenges for each of the cases in which investigators allegedly accessed files. Among other arguments, the defense attorneys could charge interference with privileged communications.
This strikes me as a pretty egregious sin by the trial counsel (that is, the prosecutor) and were I the judge, I’d be pretty damn tempted to throw out the cases that were potentially compromised. And I would surely like to see the order permitting the search. It sure seems like the investigators took advantage of the chance to go on a fishing expedition.