NEW VOICES: Former Bush Solicitor General Sides with Former Death Row Inmate in Case Before Supreme Court

Paul Clement (pictured), former Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, along with a group of former Justice Department prosecutors and civil rights officials, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court for time to argue on behalf of a former death row inmate in a case addressing prosecutorial misconduct. Lawyers for John Thompson claimed that the New Orleans district attorney’s office systematically withheld important evidence that would have exonerated Thompson of an armed robbery and murder. Thompson was eventually acquitted and freed after 18 years in prison, mostly on death row in Louisiana. In October, the Supreme Court will consider whether cities can be held liable for a single violation of Brady v. Maryland (1963), the decision that requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to criminal defendants. J. Gordon Cooney Jr, Thompson’s lawyer, said he welcomes the help from Clement and the group of Justice Department officials. According to Cooney, the range of officials, both Republican and Democratic, “reflects that this is not an issue that divides neatly along lines you would think of in a stereotypical way,” and that the group “understands that there needs to be accountab[ility] for conduct that nearly cost a man his life.”

The case is Connick v. Thompson. Among those joining Clement are former civil rights division lawyers Wan Kim, Bill Lann Lee, Grace Chung Becker, William Yeomans, John Dunne, Stephen Pollak, J. Stanley Pottinger, and James Turner; onetime criminal division chief Edward Dennis, Jr., former U.S. attorneys David Marston, Matthew Orwig, and John Ratcliffe; and former associate deputy attorney general Uttam Dhillon. They believe prosecutors need enhanced training in the obligations that stem from the Brady decision.

(T. Mauro, “Courtside: Clement lines up ex-prosecutors, seeks argument time in misconduct case,” National Law Journal, August 25, 2010). See New Voices and Supreme Court.