Snitches: Joe Friedberg on Cross of Government Informants CLE

At our December 14, 2019 meeting, legendary defense lawyer and longtime mscj member Joe Friedberg presented on the cross-examination of snitches.

The care and feeding of snitches, rats, and confidential informants

First, we need to understand what prosecutors do. So we need to look at the care and feeding of snitches, rats, and confidential informants.

How does the snitch benefit?

What is the government attorney using to motivate the cooperating witness? Their freedom — less prison time? Reduced charges? Money? Their family? How does the snitch benefit?


Next, how trustworthy is this government witness? Is this an honest person? And what have they done in the past to demonstrate trust?


What specific motivations has the government placed over the witnesses head, in this case? So, what quid pro quo for the government’s testimony?

Helping the jury test the snitch

Defense attorneys can help the jury see the cooperating government witness for what he is. And we can help jurors evaluate the credibility – or lack of it — for testifying snitches.

One more thing …

Attorney Joe Friedberg teaches cross of snitches
Attorney Joe Friedberg teaches cross of snitches

But of course we might ask the one question too many. And Attorney Joe Friedberg recounted examples of his own cases with the one question too many. All those in attendance could relate.

Experience, after all, is the great teacher. And Attorney Joe Friedberg is a great teacher, with an abundance of experience.

The best defense

The joys of lawyering include collegial relationships. So we share information and help each other. And we do, especially with colleagues who at first blush might appear to be competitors. But the more we give each other, the better we get. And no one exhibits this spirit of giving more than Lawyer Joe Friedberg.

Lawyer Joe Friedberg has been a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice for decades. And MSCJ is an association of some of the best criminal defense lawyers in Minnesota. Is your lawyer an MSCJ member?

If you’re a Minnesota Criminal Lawyer interested in applying for membership, let us know.


Trauma CLE: Joan Bibelhausen of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers

Joan Bibelhausen, from Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, presents new research on trauma, attorney stress and what to do about it. She spoke to the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice (MSCJ) monthly CLE and meeting on Saturday, November 9, 2019.


When someone accuses you of a crime, that is a traumatic event. So every person facing a criminal charge suffers the effects of trauma. And this trauma reverberates through their lives, over time.

But it affects others too. Family members are traumatized.

And secondary trauma affects criminal defense lawyers.

This trauma can lead to larger mental health and chemical health problems. Ms. Bibelhausen discussed new research on trauma and its effects, for criminal defendants and their lawyers.

Effects of unrecognized trauma

The stress of being a criminal defendant can lead to poor problem-solving. Avoidance is a common response. If you ignore it, will it go away? If you have a drink, will it? Or will avoidance only exacerbate the problem?

Social isolation is a common behavioral response. If people give you frequent negative feedback, perhaps it would be more comfortable to avoid people?

How about feeling helpless to find a solution? If you can’t see a path to a better solution, why bother making any effort at all?

And it’s not just the client. It hurts criminal lawyers too. We suffer the same effects. We need to learn to recognize stress and trauma not only in our clients, but in ourselves.

Solutions after seeing trauma

Once we learn to recognize trauma and its effects, we can better manage it.

If we recognize avoidance behaviors – in ourselves or our clients – we can do something about it. Instead of avoiding the unpleasantness, we can break the big problem down into many small ones, for example. Then we can work on it one small step after another.

If we recognize social isolation, we can counter it. We can seek out supportive social contacts, to counter all those negative, hateful people we are in contact with. So family, friends, professional colleagues can help. And so can groups like Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.

And if we feel helpless to improve the situation, that is signal to seek help. Other people can help in many different ways. And one small personal victory can spark the hope to light the way.

Help for Lawyers dealing with Trauma & Stress

Lawyers deal with lots of trauma and stress. So it’s no surprise that we suffer its effects. Denial, avoidance, isolation and self-medication with alcohol are not solutions. In fact, these strategies only make the problem worse.

We all suffer. So we all need to learn to recognize and manage our reaction to trauma and stress.

When we do, we achieve better chemical health and better mental health.

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is here to help us. LCL helps educate us on these issues. And any lawyer can access information on their website at Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.

More than that, any Minnesota lawyer can call LCL for immediate help.

The lawyers of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice thank Joan Bibelhausen of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, for helping us understand how to recognize trauma, reduce stress, and available resources for help.