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“A Brief Brouhaha”

On January 12, 2010 by Schnader

Bruce Merenstein authored a post for The Legal Intelligencer Blog published on January 12 reviewing a brief filed by Sidley Austin lawyers in a case in Illinois state court involving claims of innocence by convicted murderer Anthony McKinney and subsequent reports of what happened at a later hearing in the case.

Working on McKinney’s behalf are students at Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project. State prosecutors served subpoenas on the students, seeking to obtain, among other things, video footage of a witness statement and the students’ notes. Sidley Austin filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on behalf of the students. Following the state’s response to the motion, Sidley submitted a reply brief. It was this reply brief that received so much attention.

According to the press reports, when the Sidley lawyers showed up for a hearing on their motion, the trial judge (Diane Gordon Cannon, a former prosecutor) excoriated them, even before the hearing formally began. The judge then referred to the brief as “reprehensible,” an “editorial” not fit for court, and “dripping with sarcasm.” She also compared the brief unfavorably to one she had received earlier that day from a pro se prisoner.  Mr. Merenstein reviews the brief and finds it well-written, temperate in tone and, most importantly, focused on the substance of Sidley’s arguments.

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