City Desk

Sullivan to Nickles: ‘You’re Playing Games With The Wrong Judge’

Peter Nickles

On November 17, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan confronted AG Peter Nickles on his recent attempts to bar witnesses from being deposed and for general feet dragging in the Pershing Park cases  [PDF].

Sullivan ordered depositions to take place. He then stated that there would be serious penalties levied against the District if it failed to cooperate:

"If any depositions are canceled, I'm going to start imposing fines of $1,000 per day for any depositions that the City sua sponte cancels, and I will impose additional sanctions as well. But that Hustler deposition will take place in this courthouse and be under the supervision of a magistrate judge and there will be marshals present as well. I'm not going to play games."

With that, Sullivan turned to the attorney general: "Mr. Nickles, you're playing games with the wrong judge....I'm telling you, you're playing games with the wrong judge."

Nickles responded with a vague defense that his wide-ranging protection orders and stall tactics were "justifiable." He then couldn't help but jab plaintiffs attorney Jonathan Turley:

"The manner in which Mr. Turley continues both to play in the press and before the judge the personalization of this matter—I have brought in a team of very good lawyers who are seeking appropriately to present reasonable arguments."

Sullivan did not buy Nickles' defense. He replied:

"I didn't put any limitations on discovery, and I'm very concerned about what's taken place over the last several years. I'm very concerned that arguably there's been noncompliance with court orders. Has it been willful? I don't know, but we're going to find out."

Sullivan raised the idea that the U.S. Attorney's Office may have to get involved. If evidence has indeed been destroyed, he stated that he would refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney' s Office or the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation. "I'm not playing games with this," Sullivan said again.

Nickles told the court that Judge Stanley Sporkin would be filing a report that would address the missing evidence. He made clear that the report would be made public.

Still, Nickles couldn't help but complain about the press coverage of this case. He stated to Sullivan: "Counsel and particularly in the Chang case [that means Turley] have waged a war in the press about the District's conduct. That is not appropriate."

Sullivan wasn't buying this. "It's not that they waged a war in the papers," he told Nickles. "They filed pleadings. They filed pleadings, and the press is going to pick up on the pleadings, and the press is going to pick up on your own statements."

With that, Nickles went into full crybaby mode: "It's more than pleadings. Indeed, you could hear counsel for Chang talk from this very rostrum, Mr. Nickles didn't do this; Mr. Nickles didn't do that; Mr. Nickles is deceiving the court; Mr. Nickles is not complying with his declaration. That is not appropriate conduct by counsel."

OAG attorney Monique Pressley stepped in to complain about... Washington City Paper:

"With respect to the releases to the press, actually counsel's e-mails—my e-mails have been released to the City Paper and were part of a blog."

Sullivan wasn't too interested in all this.  He reiterated that the plaintiffs lawyers were entitled to discovery and then added a new twist: the District would be entitled to "zero discovery." "Your discovery is over," he added.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Wow. Judge Sullivan just shoved the first few inches of his big cock up Pete Nickles's ass. Judge Sullivan is going to ream out Nickles on this one - literally & figuratively. Look for Petey Nickles to be begging for mercy in another hearing or two.

    No discovery for the District due to Nickles's obstructive behavior. How does that effectively defend the District?

    Nickles is a cheap ass punk. He's getting his ass kicked here, publicly & flagrantly. Nickles is going to run back to Virginia with his skinny white tail tucked between his legs - over under on that one is six weeks. By the end of the year Petey Nickles will be whimpering in Virginia, mama, mama.

  • Tired

    hooray for judge sullivan, get Nichols and the Fenty

  • Tired

    error wrong Nichols, I meant the old jack ass one Nickles

  • pookie5

    Fenty's consigliere has met the one man in DC that doesn't buy his bullshit lawyering.

  • jf1

    Who cares. The end result will be that the District wins this case. Plaintiffs have almost zero chance of suing the cops successfully and in any case the city will pickup the tab all the way around. Then they will go back to business as usual.

    In any case, in no way will anything happen that will make up for being swept off the street next to the White House, dragged to a gym with 500 other people, then hogtied and left on the floor for over 12 hours.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    600 people times 12 hours = 7200 hours +/-. That's one year of hours - one year in prison for Ramsey. Times five for the torture he directed - five years in prison for Chuck Ramsey. & then five more in a re-education camp.

    Ramsey needs justice. Where are the protests today?

  • Truth Hurts

    It's a good thing that the public gets a close up look at the District's litigation conduct. Judge Sullivan is right to slap down arguments aimed at limiting what the press can or should report.

  • candycane1

    Judge Sullivan: I LOVE YOU! You rock! If Petey continues to piss you off, throw him in jail for contempt.

  • Ward 5

    This just made my day! Judge Sullivan for Mayor :-)!!!!

  • Dave Jamieson


  • Rick Mangus

    I agree with Ward 5, Sullivan for Mayor 2010, no bull shit, up front, a good man, something we lack in our so-called elected officals and government in this town.

  • Rick Mangus

    An additional comment, the photo above of Peter Nickles says it ALL, a man with political indigestion, BURP!

  • Downtown rez

    All you all haters should stop and remember two things.
    1- Nickels is bound by law to represent his client- the city, and
    2- Nickels is defending the city over an incident that happened under Mayor Williams.
    Sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do...

  • Jacob

    Why should District tax payers foot the bill for the antics of an appointed (not elected) crony of one of the most corupt mayors I've ever seen? Nickles should have the pay any sanctions out of his own pocket or better yet Judge Sullivan should jail him for contempt. It continues to amaze me that Nickles hasn't been disbarred (if not indicted) for the obvious contempt for the law he has displayed in this and other cases.

    Anybody But Fenty in 2010

  • Jacob

    @Downtown rez
    Nickels is also bound by law to "make reasonably diligent efforts to comply with a legally proper discovery request by an opposing party" and not to "Obstruct another party's access to evidence or alter, destroy, or conceal evidence, or counsel or assist another person to do so" (Rules of Prof. Conduct, Rule 3.4, DC R RPC Rule 3.4)

    Maybe people wouldn't hate him so much if he actually did

  • Ward 5

    Jacob I was thinking the same thing. Nickels should be forced to pay the money out of his own pockets. He's going to put the city in more debt, then go back to VA when his term is up therefore having no money coming out of his pocket. This ruling is somewhat bittersweet in that perspective.


    Thanks Judge!

  • R.

    The link to that .pdf seems not to be working. Can anyone check it/repost the link?


  • Jason Cherkis

    Will fix the PDF link. Apologies!

  • proballdc

    DR, Nickles is a barred attorney in the District of Columbia thereby he is professionally required to adhere to court orders AS the attorney general of the city, irrespective of what another administration or previous attorney general may have done; it is in the BEST INTEREST of the city that our CURRENT attorney's NOT subject the city to tax paid fines and sanctions as a result of their own contemptuous behavior at D.C. Superior Court. In fact, such behavior could very well land Nickles in crew, themselves, in jail. Which is the threat hidden in Judge Sullivan's words: "...(the) Hustler deposition will take place in this courthouse and be under the supervision of a magistrate judge and there will be marshals present as well."

    The Pershing Park case was clearly a display of rogue policeman-ship all the way to the top of their ranks. However, there is an expectation that officers of the court (attorney's) not disregard the court orders of any judge, much less a judge appointed by three United States Presidents of both parties to three judicial positions. He is very well regarded across the political spectrum.

    In the event you weren't aware of it, court orders, are not optional. In essence the judge has said that the District of Columbia will do A,B and C and it is our Attorney Generals responsibility to ensure that this gets done and in a fashion that does not position the city in a financial and legal bind with the court. To intentionally do so would be professional malpractice.

    You do yourself nor this city any favors by excusing the recent behavior of Peter Nickles in Superior Court by stating a mere fact that the case began in the Williams Administration. That would be like saying that since the matter was previously handled deplorably then it is ok to continue with the deplorable behavior. That Peter Nickles should have no accountability.

    It is one thing to disregard a plaintiff's attorney, but quite another to disregard the orders of the court.

    You may not care, but I'd much prefer that he leave the politics alone and, as you stated, "represent his client- the city". If "doing what you got to do" leads Peter Nickles to have the city held in contempt. Then certainly the D.C. Bar should "do what they have to do" to sanction the unprofessional behavior of the attorney in question.

  • Rick Mangus

    Hey!, DOWNTOWN REZ the District of Columbia is the CITIZENS, not the Mayor, Council Members or any of their cronies, we must have or demand better and honest representation and boot these bums out. They work for us WE are there BOSSES! Besides DOWNTOWN REZ you sound like an attorney or a politicial if there ever was a difference.

  • Manor

    Thank you Judge Sullivan!

  • Jason Cherkis

    Link to hearing transcript has been fixed.

  • downtown rez

    "You do yourself nor this city any favors by excusing the recent behavior of Peter Nickles in Superior Court by stating a mere fact that the case began in the Williams Administration. That would be like saying that since the matter was previously handled deplorably then it is ok to continue with the deplorable behavior. That Peter Nickles should have no accountability."

    I guess I should also note that the most furor from the judge has been over the Williams-era disappearance (and recent recovery) of the "running" log.
    That the multiple copies of this were, until recently, deep-6'ed was and is the most serious obstruction/cover up.
    Anyway, wake me when the judge enacts those "serious penalties ... against the District" or refers this case to the USAO because this administration (as opposed to the last) destroys evidence.
    Like I earlier said, he inherited a mess from the previous administration and his sworn job to extricate the city from it as best he can.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Downtown Rez: The running resume log has never been recovered.

  • downtown rez

    Ah, my bad. I thought I read it had been turned over, albeit in a redacted form.
    This case deserves a book.

  • Jason Cherkis

    I don't know about a book. Maybe some more blog posts!

  • Rick Mangus

    How about a posting in the Superior Court docket.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Rick: What do you mean?

  • Rick Mangus

    Here how that listing should read in United States District Court,

    United States of America


    Adrin Fenty
    Peter Nickles
    Vincent Gray
    Jim Graham
    Marion Barry

  • proballdc

    DR, by you're statement "he inherited a mess from the previous administration and his sworn job (is)to extricate the city from it as best he can." Do you suggest that if the "best he can" involves him intentionally, by his own hand, leading the city into a "contempt" charge for refusing to follow a court order that the citizens should look the other way and just blame the Williams Administration?

    What about his sworn obligation to uphold the rule of law. You know, that little thing that can get attorney's disbarred for NOT doing?

    You won't win very many arguments on this matter by stating that the affair occurred during the Williams Administration when that is an already acknowledged fact. It does nothing to explain unprofessional behavior (ignoring court orders) that is happening TODAY!!!

  • downtown rez

    The way I see it, I don't need to win any arguments. I just point out that you don't even HAVE an argument.
    When it comes down to it, the court has yet to sanction Nickles for anything he has done in defence of the District's actions under Ramsey/Williams. Said actions (again) being what this case is about.
    I forget, when did Williams fire Ramsey and his AG staff?

  • proballdc

    DR, that you don't see the clear argument is a reflection of your inability or unwillingness to comprehend what is right before your eyes. I'll say it again, your enunciating that this affair began under the Williams Administration was an acknowledged fact when it occurred. It is like saying the Iraq War started under the Bush Administration. We glean nothing new from that statement. In fact 100% agree with that.

    I think that today, it would be quite irresponsible and unprofessional for Peter Nickles to continue his contemptuous behavior with Judge Sullivan, which is at the heart of this story, until he finally gets the District slapped with a contempt charge and their associated fees. The judges ire is with the District's stonewalling TODAY in the face of a court order. Even if they wanted to Williams/Ramsey/Spagnoletti could do NOTHING about it. Their time has come and gone.

    As far as the court not yet sanctioning Nickles for anything he has done...well lets just say most folks don't need to be burned to know that fire is hot. I think that the judge has made if striking clear that his patience is running thin with the District's legal shenanigance. Peter Nickles must know that this is not the last District case that is going to sit before this judge or the Superior Court. In this plaintiff's friendly town, I think the precedence he should be setting is one that demonstrates the District's compliance with the rule of law and respect for and cooperation with the court.

    The people will have their moment to decide on Fenty/Lanier/Nickles fate in due time. I am surprised, however, that Spagnoletti is so silent on this matter. It would seem to me that he would have some of the answers that the plaintiffs are searching for.

    Maybe not.

  • downtown rez

    Great- Glad we agree the germane legal fact is that Nickels is defending the city against possible crimes committed by MPD (et al?) under Williams/Ramsey.
    My sense is that if Spagnoletti would/could step up, he would/could have done so years ago.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    The "germane fact" is that Nickles is doing a poor job of defending the city. His "pit bull" defense has put the city in jeopardy of losing tens of millions of dollars. His blind obstructionism is allowing Ramsey & other miscreants to escape justice. His flagrant disregard of the court's rule & DC statutes encourages criminal conduct on the part of DC officials of every level & position.

    That's the "germane fact" on which most people agree. If you did a poll of lawyers, 90% would say Nickles is doing a bad job.

    Nickles will be back in Virginia within six months. & let's hope that dumbass cracker bitch never returns to the District.

  • Terry Miller

    I once served on a jury in which Judge Sullivan presided. EVERYONE in the jury felt that Judge Sullivan was fair, honest and reasonable. If Judge Sullivan is saying what he is saying about Nickles and the city, it is because he has good reason.

    Judge Sullivan is just not a "knee jerk" kind of guy. And if Judge Sullivan is being this critical towards Nickles, then Nickles has lost all credibility with the court. Which means that the District has lost all credibility with the court. Which means that the District will lose, even when it should win, because it is viewed as corrupt and ineffective. The years in which Attorney Generals (Corporation Counsels) like Chuck Ruff and Bob Spangolleti strived to improve the District's image has all gone done the drain.

  • Marciela

    Go, Judge Sullivan!! While everyone acts like they're afraid of Fenty and his merry band of lawbreakers, you are a beacon of light.

    And for the record, this case is about what is going on the current administration, not any other administration. It is only THIS ADMINISTRATION that takes arbitration rulings as suggestions. 2010 won't be here soon enough.