The counsel table inside a courtroom is a revered resting spot, reserved for those granted permission by the presiding judge. But Montgomery Blair Sibley so wanted a chance in the spotlight that he took a seat at the table next to his client, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, on his own.
Palfrey, of course, is charged with running a high-end prostitution business in Washington, D.C. Though Sibley represents her in her civil forfeiture cases, he is not her criminal counsel — and has already been chided (subscription required) for unduly stepping into the criminal case.
So when Sibley approached the podium to ask Judge Gladys Kessler for permission to remain at Palfrey's side, Kessler balked.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Sibley," Kessler interrupted him.
"But," Sibley continued.
"Excuse me," Kessler continued. "Let me be clear. You are not the attorney in this case."
"You do not represent her in this criminal case," she said.
"I will continue to explain all her rights to her," she added.
"We'll take care of this one," Kessler concluded and Sibley slipped into the first row of public seating.
Of course, Sibley, who periodically shook his head as he furiously took notes during the proceeding, had quite an audience of reporters — the largest gathering in Palfrey’s case since she was indicted last month.
During the hearing, Kessler granted Palfrey’s request for a new lawyer (subscription required), noting the “irreconcilable differences” between Palfrey and her court-appointed counsel, A.J. Kramer, head of the D.C. Federal Public Defender. But Kessler refused Palfrey’s request to name Herald Fahringer who once represented Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, as her new attorney. Simply put, Kessler said, the law “does not give you the right to select counsel.” Nor would Kessler set aside any specified funding for Palfrey’s defense. (This time around Palfrey had asked for $150,000.) But the judge said she would appoint a new lawyer by the end of the week.
At the request of pretrial services, which complained of the burden of electronically monitoring Palfrey through all her travels, Kessler agreed to end the oversight and ordered that Palfrey, who lives in California, simply check in by phone three times a week. (“I have a new phone buddy,” Palfrey told reporters after the hearing.)
Palfrey had one last problem: her approximately 5,000 shares of Dolby Laboratory stock, which had been seized by the government. With a recent surge in share price from $22 to $37, Palfrey wanted permission to sell the stock now. But without further background, Kessler wasn’t willing to make a call today.
Following the hearing, Palfrey and Sibley headed to the front steps of the courthouse where a crowd of cameras (almost as many as on the day Scooter Libby was convicted) awaited her. She read from a lengthy statement about her recent disclosures of client names. “I believe there is something very rotten at the core of my circumstances, and without money to hire my own investigators, I must reply upon your acumen and talent to uncover the truth,” she said.
But, the throng of reporters wanted to know, didn’t all this naming names and finger pointing amount to blackmail?
“I don’t know why this is blackmail,” Sibley answered. “I call it due process of law.”