Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles
Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles

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On November 17, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan confronted AG Peter Nickles on his recent attempts to bar witnesses from being deposed and for general feet dragging in the Pershing Park cases  [PDF].

Sullivan ordered depositions to take place. He then stated that there would be serious penalties levied against the District if it failed to cooperate:

“If any depositions are canceled, I’m going to start imposing fines of $1,000 per day for any depositions that the City sua sponte cancels, and I will impose additional sanctions as well. But that Hustler deposition will take place in this courthouse and be under the supervision of a magistrate judge and there will be marshals present as well. I’m not going to play games.”

With that, Sullivan turned to the attorney general: “Mr. Nickles, you’re playing games with the wrong judge….I’m telling you, you’re playing games with the wrong judge.”

Nickles responded with a vague defense that his wide-ranging protection orders and stall tactics were “justifiable.” He then couldn’t help but jab plaintiffs attorney Jonathan Turley:

“The manner in which Mr. Turley continues both to play in the press and before the judge the personalization of this matter—-I have brought in a team of very good lawyers who are seeking appropriately to present reasonable arguments.”

Sullivan did not buy Nickles’ defense. He replied:

“I didn’t put any limitations on discovery, and I’m very concerned about what’s taken place over the last several years. I’m very concerned that arguably there’s been noncompliance with court orders. Has it been willful? I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

Sullivan raised the idea that the U.S. Attorney’s Office may have to get involved. If evidence has indeed been destroyed, he stated that he would refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney’ s Office or the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation. “I’m not playing games with this,” Sullivan said again.

Nickles told the court that Judge Stanley Sporkin would be filing a report that would address the missing evidence. He made clear that the report would be made public.

Still, Nickles couldn’t help but complain about the press coverage of this case. He stated to Sullivan: “Counsel and particularly in the Chang case [that means Turley] have waged a war in the press about the District’s conduct. That is not appropriate.”

Sullivan wasn’t buying this. “It’s not that they waged a war in the papers,” he told Nickles. “They filed pleadings. They filed pleadings, and the press is going to pick up on the pleadings, and the press is going to pick up on your own statements.”

With that, Nickles went into full crybaby mode: “It’s more than pleadings. Indeed, you could hear counsel for Chang talk from this very rostrum, Mr. Nickles didn’t do this; Mr. Nickles didn’t do that; Mr. Nickles is deceiving the court; Mr. Nickles is not complying with his declaration. That is not appropriate conduct by counsel.”

OAG attorney Monique Pressley stepped in to complain about… Washington City Paper:

“With respect to the releases to the press, actually counsel’s e-mails—-my e-mails have been released to the City Paper and were part of a blog.”

Sullivan wasn’t too interested in all this.  He reiterated that the plaintiffs lawyers were entitled to discovery and then added a new twist: the District would be entitled to “zero discovery.” “Your discovery is over,” he added.