U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan today removed a Justice Department lawyer from the list of four attorneys who were found in contempt Friday for violating two court orders in the Ted Stevens case.
Sullivan’s Jan. 21 and Feb. 3 orders required the Justice Department to turn over certain documents to Stevens’ defense team amid post-trial litigation. The documents are tied to the whistleblower complaint an FBI agent filed; the complaint alleges prosecution and FBI misconduct during the Stevens trial.
Sullivan held four lawyers in contempt at a Friday hearing: William Welch II, chief of DOJ's Public Integrity Section; Brenda Morris, principal deputy chief of the section; trial attorney Kevin Driscoll; and Patricia Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section. Morris led the Stevens prosecution team.
The judge this afternoon took Driscoll off of the list "upon reflection" of yesterday's contempt order.
Driscoll, the judge wrote in an order today, was only recently brought into the Stevens case. Driscoll has not filed a notice of appearance. Welch, Morris, and Stemler, the judge noted in today's order, signed relevant pleadings and have been working on the issues for months. “Therefore, under the circumstances, it was those attorneys', and not Mr. Driscoll's, responsibility to ensure that the government complied with the court's orders,” Sullivan wrote.
When confronted Friday in court about why the government failed to turn over documents to Stevens’ lawyers at Williams & Connolly, Driscoll did not provide Sullivan a satisfactory answer. The attorneys, Sullivan said in today’s order, “acknowledged that they had no reason for failing to comply with the orders, they simply had not complied.”