Pelosi Subpoenaed to Testify in Security Officer’s Case

Posted October 21, 2010 at 1:08pm

Updated: 4:06 p.m.

Of all the things Speaker Nancy Pelosi could choose to be doing three days before the midterm elections, being deposed in a K Street law office is probably low on the list.

But that’s what the California Democrat is being asked to do. She was subpoenaed Wednesday as a material witness in a lawsuit brought by an officer assigned to her security detail who is suing the Capitol Police for sex discrimination and retaliation.

“I’m not putting politics over the rule of law,” said John Mahoney, who represents the officer. “The Speaker was present during the scenario at issue, so she is a direct fact witness. She is subject to be deposed just like any other citizen of the United States.”

Mahoney wants Pelosi to testify for seven hours on Nov. 1. He said the Speaker can disprove the accusations that led to Special Agent Luanne Moran’s placement on paid administrative leave and could soon result in her firing.

The House general counsel did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in the response to the subpoena obtained by Roll Call, House Deputy General Counsel Kerry Kircher questioned whether the Speaker has relevant information.

Kircher asked Mahoney to supply in writing what testimony he intends to seek and how and why it’s relevant to the case. “While the Speaker does not need to know the precise questions you intend to ask, she does need to know, in general terms, the topics and issues about which you propose to interrogate her,” the Wednesday letter reads.

Though Mahoney said he’s putting politics aside, it did play a role in his decision to subpoena the Speaker now. With Pelosi facing the possibility of losing her Speakership, Mahoney said he made a strategic decision to serve her while she still has the title.

“Her knowledge and her involvement in this is in her official capacity as Speaker of the House,” he said. “I need to make sure I serve her as Speaker of the House of Representatives, which she currently is today and she will be on Nov. 1.”

But Stan Brand, a former House general counsel who defended Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) against a few subpoenas, said it’s precisely Pelosi’s title that could keep her from being deposed.

“Members are immune from inquiry in matters related to their legislative activity,” Brand said. “This one’s a mixed one because it’s personnel, but I’m sure House counsel is going to argue that some of this is inexplicably intertwined with her role as Speaker. So they’re going to object and that will have to be litigated first.”

Though Brand said Pelosi could be deposed at some point, he added that Mahoney’s deadline is “a pipe dream.”

“She’s the Speaker of the House. You don’t just call her to a deposition like you’re whistling for a cab,” he said. “She’s not going to be deposed anytime soon. This litigation could take years.”

The discovery period in the case is slated to end in February.

Moran, who was assigned to the Capitol Police Dignitary Protection Division, alleges in her September 2009 lawsuit that she was falsely reprimanded twice in 2008, once for leading Pelosi through an unauthorized building entrance in Austin, Texas, and again for using profanity while on protective detail.

Pelosi was speaking in Austin in July 2008 at Netroots Nation, a yearly blogger conference organized by the liberal political blog Daily Kos.

“Capitol Police asserts that the Speaker allegedly lost confidence in Agent Moran, and we assert that that’s not true,” Mahoney said, “Moran was not at fault and that the Capitol Police misconstrues the Speaker’s assertions.”

A spokeswoman for the Capitol Police referred calls to the Speaker’s office.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the Speaker was not involved in the incidents but declined to comment further.

Moran’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims that after complaining to supervisors about sexist and racist remarks she overheard, they retaliated by trumping up the charges of incompetence against her.

Mahoney did not rule out subpoenaing any Pelosi aides who were present during the incident.

“We’re going to subpoena all relevant material witnesses,” he said. “It’s possible, depending on who was determined to have been there. And that is really something the Speaker can address in her deposition.”

Brand, however, said aides are subject to the same immunity rules as Members.

Sheldon Snook, spokesman for the district court, said lawyers can subpoena anybody they want, but if the party resists, it falls to the judge presiding over the case to enforce it.

A spokeswoman for presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer declined to comment.