Legal Release: Court Orders Oral Argument On Two Significant Motions Brought by Jonathan Pollard

J4JP Release - August 20, 2003

Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has issued an order directing the parties to appear in court on September 2, 2003 to argue two long-pending motions brought by Jonathan Pollard. Although Mr. Pollard will be present, the proceeding is neither a trial nor an appeal. It is an oral argument by counsel on issues of law.

One motion, pending since August 16, 2001*, asks the Court to modify a prior order and allow Mr. Pollard's security-cleared defense counsel, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, to read the classified portions of five documents filed with the sentencing judge shortly before Mr. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison on March 4, 1987. The Department of Justice has refused to allow Mr. Pollard's counsel access to these documents, claiming they have no "need to know" what is in the documents. If the motion is successful, Messrs. Lauer and Semmelman will be permitted to see the documents.

The other motion, pending since October 5, 2001**, asks the Court to reconsider an earlier order denying Mr. Pollard's Motion for Resentencing purely on procedural grounds. The Court had never reached the merits of Mr. Pollard's constitutional claim that his life sentence was the result of severe government misconduct that went unchecked by an ineffective defense counsel. The Court had ruled that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations, based upon a 1996 statute that created a one-year window for prisoners to bring constitutional challenges to their incarceration. The Court had also ruled that Mr. Pollard had not shown "cause" for his failure to assert this claim in a habeas corpus proceeding instituted in 1990 with different counsel.

The motion for reconsideration asks the Court to conduct an evidentiary hearing on five key issues of fact summarily decided without any evidentiary hearing. The motion urges the Court to reconsider those determinations, all of which necessitate a hearing for proper findings of fact, and some of which are unsupported by any evidence whatsoever.

In support of the motion for reconsideration, Hon. George N. Leighton, a former United States District Judge, has submitted a sworn 37-page declaration that painstakingly analyzes the prior decision and identifies numerous flaws.

In the alternative, the motion for reconsideration asks the court to issue a Certificate of Appealability so that the Court's ruling can be brought to the Court of Appeals for review.

If the motion is successful, the Court will set the matter down for an evidentiary hearing on the statute of limitations and "cause" issues, or will issue a Certificate of Appealability so that these issues may be presented to the Court of Appeals.

J4JP Notes on Motions Asterisked Above

*Originally filed September 20, 2000 - see:

**Originally filed December 6, 2000 - see:

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