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Trials & Litigation

DC AG Criticizes ‘Vituperative Rhetoric’ in Judge Lamberth’s ‘Orwellian World’ Opinion

Posted Oct 17, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The District of Columbia's Office of the Attorney General is taking issue with a federal judge’s scathing opinion finding that city attorneys violated a discovery order.

In a motion filed last Friday, District of Columbia Attorney General Irvin Nathan ramps up the war of words, accusing U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth of using “vituperative rhetoric” in his opinion, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. The motion (PDF) asks Lamberth to reconsider his opinion or, in the alternative, to stay sanctions pending appellate review.

Lamberth’s opinion had said the district conducted unauthorized discovery in response to a suit claiming a right to post political signs on lamp posts. In the Oct. 4 opinion (PDF), Lamberth wrote: “The central issue is whether defendant was authorized to propound any discovery at all. The answer is clear: No. Given the history of this litigation, the District’s position and arguments are as untenable as they are ridiculous. Defendant asks this court to enter an Orwellian world where all arguments are devoid of context, and all court orders magically mean whatever the District wishes them to mean. The court rejects this invitation.”

The motion by Nathan and two other lawyers argued there had been no finding of bad faith by clear and convincing evidence, and the city should not have to pay attorney fees and costs. “The vituperative rhetoric in the court’s opinion, on the basis of an apparently erroneous (but objectively reasonable) interpretation of an ambiguous order, was unjustified, defamatory and injudicious,” the lawyers wrote in the motion. “The message conveyed by the opinion to the public and observers that counsel for the District in the Office of the Attorney General acted dishonestly or unethically is wrong, objectionable, and unfairly damaging to the reputation and morale of the office general and the attorneys working on this case specifically.”

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