City Desk

Pershing Park Case: Read The Document Nickles Didn’t Want You To See

ramseyIn the past few weeks, the Office of the Attorney General has waged a curious battle against plaintiffs in the Pershing Park case.

Attorney General Peter Nickles & Co. fought over whether plaintiffs could depose a government witness. They lost that battle and the deposition provided devastating evidence of more discovery abuses.

The losing fight over the depo has yet to put a dent in Nickles' M.O. The AG has not backed down from further stonewalling in the cases. In a curious move, the OAG argued in federal court filings that plaintiffs should return 211 pages of documents claiming that they were "mistakenly produced." The OAG contended that these documents were attorney-client work product.

Last night, Legal Times reported that U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled against Nickles on the matter.

So what are these mystery docs?

Legal Times wrote in its piece that Sullivan's ruling "followed a flurry of filings" asking the judge to "stop the plaintiffs from using the documents in discovery or to issue an order that would keep any information related to the documents out of the public eye."

Legal Times cited one filing in which city lawyers argued: "In addition to the privileged nature of the communications, several of the documents include statements by high-ranking officials in the District of Columbia Government which, if disclosed to the public, would only serve to embarrass while not shedding light on any matter of controversy in this case."

Plaintiffs attorneys argued in their response:

This is yet another bald attempt by the District to forestall and stymie Plaintiffs' discovery efforts. Faced with only six months of resumed discovery, the District has unleashed a torrent of objections and privilege assertions, including forcing the Court to issue an emergency order to force compliance with a deposition demand.

The plaintiffs' attorneys go on to contend that the OAG is only pressing for those documents because they would be used during a deposition of city lawyer Stacey Anderson, set to be taken this Thursday. They call the document request "farcical" and illustrative of an "effort to continue its prior delaying and dilatory tactics."

Among the documents the OAG wanted back were documents the office turned over on July 22.

Plaintiffs' attorneys contend that the documents were used in exhibits and discussed multiple times between the parties; to prove their point, they produced e-mails in which OAG attorneys discuss the documents.

The documents in question may point to then-Chief Charles Ramsey's direct involvement in ordering the Sept. 27, 2002, mass arrests, and the ensuing cover-up (the D.C. Council concluded in its investigation that Ramsey had participated in a lame attempt to obscure his involvement).

One Mystery Doc Revealed!

The attorneys point to one document in particular as the cause of Nickles' latest fight: "Prosec 00055." It's a handwritten entry that shows Ramsey's involvement in the decision to make the Sept. 27 mass arrests. The entry appears to be a lawyer's record of an assistant chief's statements concerning that day's events. It appears to place Ramsey in the middle of the decision-making—that he either ordered or "needed to make arrests."

To put "Prosec 00055" in context, the attorneys had filed excerpts of Ramsey's deposition along with testimony from several other police officials. The excerpts focus on the decision to make the arrests, why that decision was made, and who was involved in that decision.

Read then-Executive Assistant Chief Michael Fitzgerald's testimony before the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee. Fitzgerald states that he was OK with the mass arrests.

Read Ramsey's deposition from September 2007. Ramsey states that he thought the arrests were OK.

Read then-Assistant Chief Alfred Broadbent Jr.'s deposition from October 2007. Broadbent states that he advised against the arrests.

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  • Mike DeBonis

    My question: Why should "embarrassment" be legal grounds to withhold public documents?

    Sullivan is smart is enough to know it's not. God bless him.

  • downtown rez

    My question: Why should Nickles cover for Williams/Ramsey era screw-ups?
    Oh, wait, it's because they carry a legacy with potentially severe negative financial consequences, and the AG's job is to defend the city.

  • ArlingtonAaron

    Interestingly, Ramsey is on the hook for being personally liable in this case. While as a member of the plaintiff class, I would love to get a slice of Ramsey's garnished wages, I suspect that if things start looking bad for him he'd 'flip' to avoid that: and how much fun would that be.

  • Simon

    ArlingtonAaron: Ramsey is only named as an individual-capacity defendant for technical legal reasons having to do with the Eleventh Amendment and Ex Parte Young. He, like all cops, have an agreement whereby the city will pay his legal fees and indemnify him for compensatory, but not punitive, damages. If they didn't have such indemnification agreements, no-one would ever become a cop, because you'd be putting your personal assets on the line every time you make an arrest. So believe me, any judgment against Ramsey is being paid by the taxpayers, not by the man himself.

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