Lawyers in the trial of a woman accused of stalking a District of Columbia magistrate judge squared off today over how much information jurors should receive about ethics complaints pending against the alleged victim.
Defense lawyer Dorsey Jones Jr. said he plans to bring up the complaints, at least one of which was filed by his client, against Magistrate Judge Janet Albert of the D.C. Superior Court. Jones represents Taylar Nuevelle, the 40-year-old convicted felon who dated Albert in 2008, and is accused of breaking into her home to harass her. Albert serves on the District's Family Court where she presides over child abuse and neglect cases.
Nuevelle filed a signed judicial ethics complaint against Albert on Oct. 17, 2008. Three other anonymous complaints were filed against Alpert during the month before then, including two before the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, and another before the Superior Court's Committee on the Selection and Tenure of Magistrate Judges. Nuevelle was arrested on the stalking and burglary charges in November of that year, although the alleged incident occurred on Sept. 13.
Jones said he intended to ask Albert whether she had been the subject of any ethics complaints that could result in sanctions, disbarment, or the filing of criminal charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brenowitz said that CFSA officials had already told Albert that the complaints against here were considered “groundless,” and that the government would call witnesses to testify as such. But she said she did not think the substance of the complaints should be presented to the jury.
Nuevelle’s ethics complaint accuses Albert of abusing her authority as a judge, alleging that she improperly shielded a girl from the girl’s mother. Nuevelle also said she felt intimidated and threatened after Albert enlisted the help of a deputy U.S. marshal to investigate whether Nuevelle was a threat to the judge.
“To the extent that any of those allegations are discussed, they are extraordinarily prejudicial,” Brenowitz said. “It would essentially be a mini-trial” for Albert.
Brenowitz also objected to describing any of the allegations as potentially “criminal.”
Judge Russell Canan declined to rule on the issues today. He did rule that prosecutors could present hundreds of text messages Nuevelle sent to Albert, as well a 911 call by the judge, as long as they showed during trial that they were relevant to the case. Jones had objected to their use.