Just when you thought the case of former anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill was over, it carries on. Lawyers for Hatfill returned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Sept. 11 seeking dismissal of journalist Toni Locy's appeal of the contempt citation slapped on her for refusing to reveal her sources for stories in USA Today relating to the Hatfill case. Hatfill's lawyer Christopher Wright of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis in D.C. notes in his motion that Hatfill's underlying dispute with the Justice Department over being unfairly implicated in the anthrax case was settled, with the government agreeing to pay Hatfill $5.8 million for the Privacy Act violation. As a result of the settlement, Wright asserts, Locy's appeal of the original contempt citation by District Judge Reggie Walton in February is now moot, and should be dismissed. A dismissal would return the case to Walton, and that appears to be Hatfill's main goal.
In Hatfill's motion, Wright says that once the district court regains jurisdiction over the Locy case, Hatfill will seek attorney fees from Locy. No amount was mentioned, but Locy told Legal Times she anticipates that the lawyer bills will be "far greater than the fines I faced under Judge Walton's contempt finding." She adds, "A multimillion dollar settlement with the government apparently is not enough for them." Locy also notes that Walton said the original fines for contempt had to be paid by Locy alone, without help from her employer or friends. Walton could impose the same requirement if he orders her to pay Hatfill's attorney fees, and that could impoverish her, she said. "This is beyond greed. It's beyond vindictive."Locy is now a journalism professor at Washington & Lee University.Wright could not be reached for comment, but his partner Mark Grannis told Legal Times that the motion and the request for fees is "standard Rule 37 practice." He said lawyers who subpoena reporters for information "don't do this for sport," but do so because they need the information to pursue their cases. "In response to hysterical complaints about a constitutional crisis, I would just say that it is quite often the case that the party who goes to the extra trouble gets attorney fees." Grannis also said that unlike with the fines for contempt, "if other persons want to chip in" to help Locy pay for the attorney fees, "I can't imagine that we would oppose that."