U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan blasted the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office at a hearing earlier this week, calling the city’s mishandling of a high-profile suit alleging false arrest the “civil counterpart” of the Justice Department’s botched prosecution of Ted Stevens. The judge used the phrase “sad commentary” seven times and promised “painful” sanctions. Ouch.

Sullivan directed D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles to submit an affidavit within two weeks addressing a “pattern of shortcomings” and “discovery abuses” in the seven-year-long litigation in which two groups of plaintiffs were swept up by city police in a mass arrest of bystanders at Pershing Park in 2002 amid a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. One suit was filed against the federal government, and the other targets Washington, D.C.