Lawyers for a Justice Department attorney who participated in the Ted Stevens prosecution are again urging a federal judge in Washington to vacate his contempt finding.
Patty Merkamp Stemler and two other Justice attorneys were found in contempt in February 2009 during a status hearing in the Stevens case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Judge Emmet Sullivan found the attorneys had failed to provide Stevens’ defense lawyers with copies of certain documents. Sullivan said in court he would deal with sanctions associated with the contempt at a later time. There have been no subsequent public proceedings regarding the contempt finding.
Stemler, chief of the Justice Department criminal appellate section, did not participate as a trial prosecutor in the Stevens case and is not one of the six prosecutors who are under criminal investigation for contempt. That investigation, led by a special prosecutor, is ongoing.
“Ms. Stemler had no knowledge of or involvement in the failure to produce the thirty documents to the defendant prior to the February 13, 2009 status conference,” Stemler’s lawyer, Seth Waxman of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, said in court papers filed this evening.
“No action has been taken on Ms. Stemler’s motion for more than a year,” Waxman wrote. “No one has opposed her motion or has otherwise voiced objection to her request, and the Court has not requested any additional briefing or a hearing."
The long pendency of the contempt finding has hurt Stemler, Waxman said. He said other than the court's finding, Stemler has "an unblemished record of thirty-four years."
"Because the Court’s contempt ruling remains unresolved, Ms. Stemler has not signed her name to any brief, or filed an appearance, on behalf of the United States since February 13, 2009, hampering the government’s advocacy in the most important criminal appellate cases," Waxman wrote.
The motion asking Sullivan to vacate the contempt finding is the second filed in the case. Click here for the earlier motion, filed in June 2009.
Stemler declined to comment on today’s motion. Waxman, chair of the firm’s appellate and Supreme Court litigation practice, was not immediately reached for comment this evening. He filed his notice of appearance in the case today.
Wilmer partner Howard Shapiro, who had earlier filed court papers on behalf of Stemler, also was not immediately reached for comment. Shapiro chairs the litigation department at the firm.