Ted Stevens Prosecutors Appeal Civil Contempt Finding

Mike Scarcella

The Blog of LegalTimes

November 15, 2010

Two Justice Department prosecutors want a federal appeals court in Washington to review a judge’s ruling in October that maintained a civil contempt finding against the attorneys for their work in the prosecution of Ted Stevens.

Lawyers for Justice prosecutors William Welch II and Brenda Morris filed a notice of appeal today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Morris and Welch were transferred from the department’s Public Integrity Section after the collapse of the Stevens case in April 2009 amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

An attorney for Morris, Hogan Lovells partner Catherine Stetson, was not immediately reached for comment this afternoon. A lawyer for Welch, Mark Lynch, a Covington & Burling partner, was unavailable for comment. A call left with another attorney for Welch, Zuckerman Spaeder partner William Taylor III, was not immediately returned.

The notice of appeal filed on behalf of Morris and Welch challenges the 26-page opinion Judge Emmet Sullivan published in October. In February 2009, the judge held Morris, Welch and DOJ appellate supervisor Patricia Stemler in civil contempt for allegedly violating court orders to turn over certain information to Stevens’ lawyers at Williams & Connolly.

In his ruling last month, Sullivan refused to vacate the contempt finding against the three Justice lawyers. The judge’s ruling said the attorneys were no longer in contempt for their alleged violation of a court order. Sullivan said sanctions were not warranted since the government produced the records to Stevens’ lawyers.

The notice of appeal filed today on behalf of Morris and Welch did not specify the nature of the legal challenge of Sullivan’s decision. Stemler is not participating in the appeal, according to her attorney, Howard Shapiro, a partner in the Washington office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. The notice transfers the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Morris, Welch and three other prosecutors remain under criminal contempt investigation for their roles in the Stevens case. Sullivan last year appointed a special prosecutor, Henry Schuelke III of Washington’s Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler to oversee the investigation.