Our peculiar habits can sometimes confound out-of-town guests.
Take, for example, U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin Jr., normally of the Northern District of New York, but spending a little time here as a visiting judge.
He was presiding last week over a case involving a former CIA deep cover operative who alleges that unknown agency personnel bad-mouthed him to a defense contractor, costing him a job.
Marcia Sowles, a Justice Department lawyer for the CIA, argued that the agency never said anything publicly about the man, known as Peter B in court pleadings.
Scullin asked Peter B’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, to lay out the material facts the plaintiff believes are at issue so the judge could decide if limited discovery is warranted. He gave Zaid a week.
No problem preparing the filing in a week, Zaid said, but he couldn’t submit it to the court. He would first have to give it to the CIA for review to see if it contained classified information.
But there is no need to include any classified information, Scullin said.
Agreed, said Zaid, but the agency still has to get it first. Sowles and CIA lawyer Anthony Moses concurred: Everything must be reviewed in Langley.
Scullin seemed a tad irritated by this seemingly redundant requirement. Impatient to move along a case that has been stalled for years, Scullin asked Moses how long the review might take.
The CIA lawyer couldn’t predict.
Scullin, an Army infantry commander in Vietnam and Bush I appointee, ordered him to get it done in a week.
“If there’s an issue,” he said, “have your boss call me.”