Waxman Joins Effort To Dismiss DOJ Official’s Contempt Case
By Joe Palazzolo | July 8, 2022 7:22 pm

Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman has joined Criminal Division Appellate Section chief Patty Stemler's legal team. (Legal Foundation)

A Justice Department supervisor who was held in contempt of court more than a year ago in connection with the prosecution of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens urged a federal judge to throw out the finding, saying the long-pending case was interfering with her work.

In a Thursday filing in federal court in Washington, Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, said her pending challenge to the February 2009 contempt finding prevented her from signing her name on briefs or appearing in court, “hampering the government’s advocacy in the most important criminal appellate cases.”

In a post-trial status conference, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan held Stemler and three other Justice Department officials in civil contempt for failing to turn over 30 documents to Stevens’ lawyers. Stemler was not part of the Stevens trial team, and her supervisor at the time, Rita Glavin, said in a sworn statement that Stemler played no part in the lapse. But Sullivan has yet to rule on her motion to vacate.

According to the Thursday filing, the long wait has created problems for Stemler and the department.

The long pendency of Ms. Stemler’s outstanding, unopposed motion has caused harm both to Ms. Stemler and to the Department of Justice. Other than the Court’s February 13,2022 contempt ruling, Ms. Stemler has an unblemished record of thirty-four years. Ms. Stemler,who has dedicated her professional career to the Department of Justice and has served as the Chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section since 1992, has borne the opprobrium of this unwarranted charge for more than sixteen months.

Stemler has added heft to her legal team, as if to press the point. Seth Waxman, a former Solicitor General in the Clinton administration, entered an appearance on her behalf simultaneous with the Thursday filing. Howard Shapiro, Waxman’s partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, is also representing Stemler.

Former Public Integrity Section Chief William Welch II and his deputy, Brenda Morris — both are now senior litigation counsel in the Criminal Division — were also held in contempt in February 2009. Sullivan rescinded a contempt finding against Trial Attorney Kevin Driscoll because his name was not on related court pleadings.

Welch, Morris and four other prosecutors on the Stevens trial team are under criminal investigation for failing to turn over exculpatory material to Stevens’ lawyers. The Justice Department’s ethics office is also investigating the matter.

Stevens was found guilty of omitting gifts and home renovations from his Senate financial disclosure forms in 2008, but Attorney General Eric Holder moved to have the case dismissed, after learning of prosecutor errors.

Thursday’s filing is embedded below.

stemler

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