Brady List appeal bill clears House committee

Photo via Cronkite News

A bill championed by the state’s largest police union that would allow officers to appeal being put on a list used by prosecutors to identify dishonest law enforcement agents is one step closer to becoming law, though without a controversial provision that sought to shroud the list in secrecy. 

The Brady List, as it’s commonly referred to, gets its name from a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that a defendant has his due process violated when prosecutors suppress evidence that is favorable to the defendant. 

In response to the ruling, prosecutors around the United States often keep lists of officers deemed not trustworthy as witnesses due to internal affairs investigations or other issues. That list must be provided to defendants and their attorneys.

House Bill 2114, introduced by Phoenix Republican Rep. John Allen, adds an appeal process for officers prior to even being put on that list as well as other additions, such as making it so an agency can’t use the list in hiring or firing practices. 

The bill originally would have made the list a secret, but that provision was removed by the House Public Safety Committee.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA, helped write the bill and is its primary advocate.

The bill was approved Feb. 19 by the committee on a 6-1 vote. 

The only lawmaker who opposed it was Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale. He is also the only member of the Public Safety Committee who has not received campaign contributions from PLEA’s political action committee, according to campaign finance records

“We think it would make prosecution disclosure more difficult,” Armando Nava, a criminal defense attorney representing Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said. “It would also jeopardize the entire trial process as we know it.”

Nava, the son of a police officer himself, said he was concerned with how the appeal process could further complicate trials, given that little is known about how such appeals would be conducted. 

“Really, I haven’t heard a lot about how this appeal process is going to work,” Navas said, adding that the bill seems to be less about “due process for officers” and more about protecting “possible bad apples.” 

Proponents of the bill, such as PLEA Executive Director Joe Clure, shot back, saying that the Brady List is a “scarlet letter” for officers and getting off the list is often a difficult task. 

“We are not here to protect bad apples,” Sean Mattson with the Fraternal Order of Police said. “This is just to instill an opportunity for due process.”

Rep. John Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican and retired police officer, said the list is currently public record and not difficult to obtain. 

However, ABC15 recently spent nearly a year making public records requests in order to create a publicly searchable version of the Brady List of Arizona officers for the first time ever. 

The list, which contains 1,400 law enforcement officers, also contains the name of Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, who sits on the Public Safety Committee and voted in favor of the bill. 

Kern was fired from his job at the El Mirage Police Department, where he worked as a code enforcement officer, for lying to his supervisor. That landed him on the Brady List, the Phoenix New Times reported last year.

An investigation by USA Today last year found that many prosecutors across the country aren’t even properly using or tracking officers on the Brady List, sometimes leading to wrongful convictions. 

The bill will next head to the house for consideration by the full chamber. It must also pass the Senate to become law.