“Ms. Palfrey, I want you to think long and hard about what you’re doing, about your future,” admonished Kessler, during a status conference today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. “We’re talking about jail time, Ms. Palfrey.”
Last week, Palfrey asked the judge to cut defense lawyer Preston Burton from the case and allow her civil lawyer, the eccentric Montgomery Blair Sibley, to represent her. Failing that, Palfrey asked for a tin-cans-on-a-string setup, where, technically, she would represent herself, but Sibley would coach her from afar. (We’re not sure whether that would entail a lot of whispering over the railing or intensive pretrial drilling. Sibley has already demonstrated a propensity for both, much to the dismay of prosecutors, as well as Palfrey's defense lawyers.)
Predictably, the government is opposed to both designs. “[Palfrey] may have a right to represent herself, but she does not have the right to dictate to the Court the terms of that self-representation, nor does she have the right to choose her own court-appointed attorney,” scoffed assistant U.S. attorneys Daniel Butler and Catherine Connolly, in an opposition brief filed last night.
In May, Palfrey chucked her first court-appointed attorney, Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer, arguing he was too busy to properly defend her. Neither Kramer nor Burton, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, seemed too broken up over the prospect of losing her as a client.
Today’s hearing was originally scheduled for arguments on whether the prosecution could use evidence seized from Palfrey’s California home in 2006. Kessler, lamenting the case’s “glacial speed,” reset the motions hearing for Sept. 7. The judge also said she planned to have a tête-à-tête with Palfrey -- to ensure the defendant understands “the dangers” of self-representation -- before ruling on the counsel matter.