The Role of “Coordinating Discovery Attorneys” in Multidefendant Federal Criminal Cases

By Hannah Silverman

The twenty-first century’s technological revolution has shifted the practice of law, including litigation, from being primarily paper-based to paperless. To manage the increasingly complex organization and review of evidence in civil and criminal cases, attorneys outsource legal tasks, work on teams, and use discovery coordinators.

This Note examines the development of court-appointed coordinating discovery attorneys and their role in multidefendant federal criminal trials involving voluminous discovery. With a background in criminal defense and electronic discovery, these lawyers provide hands-on assistance as a way to cut costs, help overburdened and underfunded defense counsel, and improve representation of criminal defendants. In 2014, however, one district court judge denied the appointment of a coordinating discovery attorney, citing the role’s seemingly insurmountable ethical complexities. Since then, no court or legal scholar has studied how coordinating discovery attorneys can best promote fairness and efficiency consistent with the ethics rules. After examining how the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct apply to this role, this Note concludes that by carefully circumscribing the role and establishing proper ground rules, coordinating discovery attorneys can provide beneficial and substantive legal assistance to multiple codefendants at once.