The District of Columbia's lead attorney in litigation over arrests at Pershing Park in 2002 filed notice (PDF) on Nov. 25 that she was withdrawing from the case and resigning from the Office of the Attorney General.
Monique Pressley, a senior assistant attorney general, said in a phone interview this morning that her decision to leave was unrelated to the Pershing Park case. When she joined the office more than two years ago, she said, she had planned to stay only one year.
“I had originally committed to stay with the Office of the Attorney General for a year and, at that time, the case was set for trial,” Pressley said. With the case yet to go to trial, she said, “it’s been two years and two months now since I originally came on, and I just have personal commitments that I needed to return to.”
Pressley, who resigned effective Nov. 25, is still facing a contested subpoena (PDF) to testify about how the attorney general's office has handled evidence in the case. Lead plaintiffs’ counsel, Bryan Cave’s Daniel Schwartz, declined to comment on Pressley’s withdrawal but did say that the change in counsel would not affect their attempt to subpoena her.
A spokesman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment on Pressley’s decision, but did confirm that a new lead counsel for trial would file a notice of appearance the first week of December. The statement did not specify who that attorney would be.
The city has been facing litigation since 2002 over the mass arrest of bystanders at the city’s Pershing Park in 2002 during demonstrations against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The city settled a related class action for about $8.25 million, including about $2.5 million in attorney fees and costs.
Attorneys for the city have come under fire repeatedly over the years for their handling of discovery. Most recently, attorneys for the city revealed in July that an unidentified police officer or city official attempted to destroy evidence in the case.
The evidence in question is a “resume” that documented police activity on the day of the arrests. The city had previously said it did not have the data, but in May the city’s counsel announced that an outside contractor found the information.
On Sept. 24, the plaintiffs’ lawyers subpoenaed Pressley to testify about the handling of evidence. The city is fighting the subpoena, arguing in a Sept. 26 motion (PDF) that “there is a very high likelihood that all answers solicited during a deposition of OAG counsel by Chang Plaintiffs would breach attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges, and warrant protection from disclosure.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs counter that the recent disclosures make the deposition necessary. “She is the only individual in possession of certain key information regarding missing and lost evidence and her testimony is vital to establishing conclusively what occurred in these areas,” the plaintiffs argued in an Oct. 7 opposition brief (PDF).
U.S. District Magistrate Judge John Facciola, who is presiding over discovery-related issues in the case, has yet to rule on the city’s motion.