Happy new year to our readers!
This year, Dan Portnov began writing regularly for Grand Jury Target, particularly about SEC matters. We’d like to thank everyone for reading. There’s nothing I like better than meeting someone new who says “I love your blog.” I’m even happy when you say “I kind of like your blog” or “I’ve heard of your blog.”
It’s a low bar, really.
At the end of the year, we find it interesting to look back at what posts were the most popular. It helps us pick topics going forward. It’s not fun to write posts that no one reads.
This year, the pattern is plain: the Russia investigation is a hot topic. Many readers wanted to read about Michael Cohen and about issues related to grand jury investigations.
Here are the top 10 posts for the year:
10. The list starts with a post about attorney-client privilege, asking Do Prosecutors Hate the Attorney-Client Privilege? The answer was “um, maybe.” The post used two quotes from former prosecutors related to the Mueller investigation that were openly hostile to the privileged. The goal was to start a conversation about how prosecutors view one of the key protections afforded a criminal defendant. Sometimes that protection makes it harder for prosecutors to bring their cases and is a source of frustration. If you want to see who said that the privilege is a “free pass to engage in corrupt conduct,” read on.
9. Number 9 on the list is also about the attorney-client privilege. It was from 2014 and about the use of “taint teams” to allow government agents to weed out privileged documents when they execute a search warrant. It was no doubt more popular this year because of the media stories about the taint team used in the Michael Cohen case. If you want to learn about taint teams, then check out our post, These Defendants Are Asking for a Taint Team. Why?
8. Criminal forfeiture is a topic that non-lawyers often do not know about. When they learn about the reach of this federal power, they are surprised. How it’s exercised on the state level, including through civil asset forfeiture, can be downright shocking. This post describes the forfeiture process generally, using the example of a high-profile insider trading case. What I liked about this topic is that I could read briefing from very good lawyers on the topic and learn from them. I also referenced one of my favorite TV shows, When the Good Wife Faces Criminal Forfeiture: The Government’s Efforts to Seize a Spouse’s Assets after Conviction.
7. What Is Grand Jury Secrecy? was another older post that seemed to spike in readership when there were stories about the Special Counsel’s work that mentioned the grand jury. Grand jury secrecy is frustrating (we want to hear what’s going on in Mueller’s grand juries) but a key protection for defendants. People often get it wrong about grand jury secrecy, saying that witnesses who testified in front of the grand jury cannot talk about what they were asked and what they answered. That’s just dead wrong. If you want to know why, hey, read this post from 2015 like everyone else.
6. Sentencing in criminal cases is usually a hot topic and others have excellent blogs about this topic alone, such as Sentencing Law and Policy. I’m practically a dilettante in comparison. But this post about the statistics about white-collar sentencings from two years ago is a popular one, suggesting either that I did a masterful job on SEO (doubtful) or people really want to know the numbers. It’s called The Hard Numbers on White Collar Criminal Sentences.
5. Many of our criminal cases come to the firm as investigations by an Office of Inspector General. If you don’t practice white-collar work, you’d be surprised to hear that many criminal cases don’t start as criminal cases but rather as an odd administrative investigation known as an OIG investigation. Our posts about OIG investigations always get a lot of hits, particularly when there were media articles about high-profile OIG investigations into Cabinet members. This led us to consider writing a book about them (STAY TUNED). The post is titled OIG Investigations—Why Lawyers and Clients Should Both Worry.
4. Sometimes I write posts to explain an event in white-collar criminal cases that is confusing or not often described. Reverse proffers are an important part of many of the cases in which I’m involved and I couldn’t find any one who had written about them. So, I wrote my own post over two years ago about them called What Is a Reverse Proffer? (catchy, right?). If I had to guess, the folks reading this #4 post are lawyers, not lay people.
3. Showing the public’s keen interest in All Things Russia Investigation, the third most popular post this year was about the search warrant executed for the office of Trump’s lawyer, The Search Warrant for Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Office – How Did That Happen? DOJ Policies Reviewed. I wrote this one really fast, cranking it out the afternoon the story about the search warrant hit. I wondered how easy or hard it was to obtain a search warrant for a lawyer’s office. Turns out, it’s not easy.
2. In the number 2 spot is a post that always surprises me in how many hits it receives. It’s an extremely basic—and non-lawyer reader-friendly—post about statutes of limitation for white-collar crimes titled White Collar Crime Resource Guide: Statute of Limitations. It’s from July 2014, but apparently this is a topic that never loses its helpfulness.
1. Far and away (with twice as many views as any other post this year), was What is an FBI 302? The Problematic Nature of FBI Agents’ Interview Memos. It was easy to tell when there was media coverage that mentioned a 302, since there would be a quick spike in readers of this post. It covers the basics of what is in a 302, as well as some of the inherent dangers for defendants in investigations that are based on the often-flawed memos.